Is Fear Of Childbirth Really A Disorder?S

Some women apparently suffer from "tocophobia" or an "unrelenting fear of childbirth." But is this really that irrational?

ABC's Susan Donaldson James says, "At its worst, tocophobia can be so profound that some women, even those who yearn for children, choose not to get pregnant." For instance, 23-year-old Karen DuVall says when the time comes, she'd rather adopt. She tells ABC:

The more I learned about childbirth, the more afraid of it I've actually become. I'm afraid of my body being ruined. I'm afraid of having an aneurysm and dying. I'm even afraid that when I get married, my husband won't be attracted to me anymore after giving birth. I'm afraid that I just won't be me anymore.

While the majority of moms don't have aneurysms, DuVall's concerns about the health implications of childbirth aren't unfounded — as Amanda Marcotte tweets, "since complications are common, I'm a little wary of suggesting this is a 'phobia', instead of a reasonable reaction." And since maternal mortality rates are higher in the US than in most other developed countries — and have risen since the late nineties — maybe a little anger at our healthcare system is in order too. And as to DuVall's worries about her body — well, given that we're daily bombarded with stories of celebs losing (or failing to lose) the "baby weight," and generally made to believe that only the thinnest and youngest-looking physiques are acceptable, I'm sure many women have had similar concerns about getting pregnant. None of the worries on DuVall's list came as any kind of surprise to me.

To my mind, the whole concept of "tocophobia" just illustrates a double bind women face. We're frequently told that unless we hire an army of personal trainers and plastic surgeons, we'll be unattractive after we have a kid — and of course, attractiveness is our most important attribute. We hear stories about the "ring of fire" and all the other terrible things that can happen to us as we push a baby out. And yet if after all that, we're not eager to procreate — why then we must be crazy!

Of course, the US should be working to improve healthcare so that complications can become less of a concern for moms-to-be. And I certainly look forward to the day (is it coming? ever?) when women can reproduce without worrying about baby-weight bullshit. But in the meantime, if a woman has looked at her options and decided childbearing isn't for her, does she really have a disease?

Tocophobia, Or Fear Of Childbirth, On The Rise [ABC]