‘Horror stories’

Women are increasingly affected by phobia of giving birth — and some say social media is to blame

(ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

As women are increasingly diagnosed with the mental condition Tocophobia — a severe fear of giving birth — some experts are stirring controversy by suggesting that social media posts by women who have experienced adverse births are to blame.

“You just have to Google childbirth and you’re met with a tsunami of horror stories,” said Catriona Jones, a midwifery professor at the University of Hull who has studied the condition. “If you go on to any of the Mumsnet forums, there are women telling their stories of childbirth — oh, it was terrible, it was a bloodbath, this and that happened. I think that can be quite frightening for women to engage with and read about.”

“I wouldn’t say social media is leading women to be afraid of childbirth,” she continued, “but it plays a part.”

As a result of of Jones’ comments, many have spoken out in support of Mumsnet and other forums that allow mothers to speak frankly about their own experiences of childbirth.

“To blame Mumsnet is silly,” said Sarah Hesz, the head of Mush, a social networking app for mothers. “What can be toxic is a mum being at home by themselves and obsessing over their phone and Googling horror stories. But what is really helpful, and to counter that, is talking to real mums about what will happen.”

The leader of the Women’s Equality party, Sophie Walker, also noted that many women have been traumatized by doctors who performed interventions on women or changed their birth plans at the last minute without even bothering to consult the mother.

“Giving birth is not a medical problem to be fixed by doctors, but women in labor are treated as patients. These are the problems that need to be reviewed and critiqued, not the women sharing their experiences of birth via platforms like Mumsnet, where they seek solidarity and understanding,” she explained.

But according to Jones, Tocophobia now affects around 14 percent of women — and possibly as many as 30 percent — and research has indicated that prevalence rates of the disorder have been rising since 2000, pushing many women into terminating their pregnancies or opting for unnecessary C-sections. A full explanation for why this appears to be happening, however, has yet to be fully revealed.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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