Ever heard of tocophobia? It’s a term used to describe the fear of childbirth. Researchers in Sweden have found that when expectant fathers experience tocophobia, it may have negative effects on the birth experiences of their partners.
The study, titled 'Psychoprophylaxis - Antenatal preparation and actual use during labour', by Malin Bergström found that many of these men were fearful not only of the process of childbirth, but in their roles as parents as well. There have been some signs to indicate that tocophobia contributed to an increase in cesarean sections, pointing to the need for birth professionals to address these fears with expecting parents.
Since the study, the Swedish Medical University has begun providing childbirth preparation classes featuring the use of psychoprophylaxis (relaxation techniques) for all expectant parents with good results.
Childbirth educators encourage both mother and partner to participate in class discussions to try and address these common fears about labor and early parenting. Educational models such as the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, and Birthing from Within place a great deal of emphasis on the partner as a strong yet calm source of strength for the woman in labor by teaching the partner relaxation techniques like massage and affirmations.
In another study on childbirth education classes from Lamaze International* the researchers discovered the rate of attendance for childbirth courses, and particularly courses lasting more than one session, has been decreasing over the past several years. Couples are encouraged to take lengthier courses, independent of the hospital preparation courses to get a more complete training in birth support.
Additionally, hiring a doula can help parents receive one-on-one training in these techniques and a sense of security in asking questions concerning any anxieties in an intimate and supportive setting. Doulas also help the partner to feel comfortable that everything is going well in labor, knowing that the mother will never be left alone and that there is a constant source of guidance and expertise by their side.
For a list of childbirth educators in your area, visit the International Childbirth Educators Association website.
*Contemporary Dilemmas in American Childbirth Education: Findings From a Comparative Ethnographic Study, Christine H. Morton, PhD and Clarissa Hsu, PhD, Journal of Perinatal Medicine Fall 2007