Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 772–778 | Cite as

When Fear of Childbirth is Pathological: The Fear Continuum

  • Léa Poggi
  • Nelly GoutaudierEmail author
  • Natalène Séjourné
  • Henri Chabrol



Given that prepartum psychiatric symptoms have been reported to be associated with postpartum disorders, focusing on the prepartum period appears of prime importance. The aim of the current study was threefold: (a) to identify the prevalence rates of women suffering from fear of childbirth (FOC) and tokophobia (b) to explore the association between FOC, obstetrical and psychopathological variables and (c) to identify the independent predictors of the intensity of FOC symptoms, FOC and tokophobia.


at 36 weeks’ gestation, 98 women completed questionnaires assessing FOC, pretraumatic stress, fear of pain, depressive and anxiety symptomatology as well as perceived social support. Socio-demographic and gynecological data were also gathered.


22.45% of women reported a probable FOC and 20.41% suffered from a potential tokophobia. Epidural anesthesia (ß = 5.62, p < 0.05), and the intensity of pretraumatic stress symptoms (ß= 0.69, p < 0.05), were independently associated with the intensity of FOC symptoms. Planning a c-section was significantly related to FOC (β = 0.09, p = 0.03). Planning an epidural anesthesia was also an independent predictor of both FOC and tokophobia (β = 1.33, p = 0.03; β = 1.26, p = 0.04, respectively).


Given the high rates of FOC and tokophobia highlighted, developing an appropriate preparation to childbirth is of great relevance. Longitudinal studies should be developed in order to provide an in-depth examination of the course of prepartum psychiatric disorders, maintenance of symptoms and their impact on subsequent infant development.


Prepartum Fear of childbirth Tokophobia Pretraumatic stress Epidural anesthesia 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léa Poggi
    • 1
  • Nelly Goutaudier
    • 2
    Email author
  • Natalène Séjourné
    • 1
  • Henri Chabrol
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches en Psychopathologie et de la Santé - CERPPS (EA 7411)Toulouse Cedex 9France
  2. 2.Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition et l’Apprentissage –CeRCA- (CNRS, UMR 7295) MSHS – Université de PoitiersPoitiers Cedex 9France

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