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Intense Fear of Being Pregnant

My first cousin has a problem. When she was a child, she heard an aunt say “i can not imagine something moving inside of me” and the other one was when the comedian Chelsea Handler said “I don’t think I would ever be able to carry the baby to full term, I would feel so “trapped”. She repeats these 2 thoughts.Last year she was pregnant and miscarried because of the abnormalities and before she was referred to an abortion, the doctors told her “You can not get an abortion until the committee approves the diagnosis” and she freaked out. She could not imagine being trapped with something inside of her without having the control to expel it or keep it or to do what she wanted. This thought was traumatic for her.
She was pregnant 3 times. The first time she felt good/proud but her husband wanted an abortion.Later on they decided to have children but she had 2 miscarriages. First was early in pregnancy and the second one was at 4m. She was ok with it at 3,5m but then they told her something was wrong with the fetus and for her, even thought she later on cried and felt deep sorrow, she still felt relieved. Now that she is supposed to be doing ivf, she is afraid “what if she changes her mind in the middle of the pregnancy?” or “how will she react when she feels first baby kicks, will she freak out?”. Tried talking to a therapist but without success. She can not talk to her husband or anyone else bc all this is strange. She generally has low self-esteem. Her mother was not a warm person and never developed a relationship with her. She is 40 so she does have to do it soon. Ironically, she does want to have a child (her own) and says that she will be a great mother once the baby is “out”. She is a very nice, warm and rational person. She is preparing for the pregnancy now and freaking out. Not connecting to the idea of being pregnant in a way other women do. Generally doubtful of people (had a hard life, turbulent upbringing etc). Asked me recently “what if I decide to terminate the pregnancy at 25 weeks, where can i go, where can i do it?”Together we searched the net, thinking maybe if I give her answers and security “you can control what to do with your body” that this would calm her down and actually make her want the baby, and it did but only until week 22 or so. This is where her 25-week question comes from. Her biggest fear is of being pregnant. How can I help her calm down and go with pregnancy?

I think your concern and caring for your cousin is a wonderful gift she is receiving from you. I hope this response helps.

Tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy and childbirth, is a fear woman may have. Here is some information from an article on some of the most common issues surrounding this fear. Here is another with more description and additional information about it.

The key here is to identify it as what it sounds like it is, tokophobia, and seek treatment from a mental health professional that has some experience. You may want to ask the OBGYN community who they refer to for this.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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