British Pregnancy Advisory Service
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Want to be a mum, but too terrified

I have a complicated past which started with bullying from an early age, and a couple of abusive relationships which has left me with very low self-esteem and poor body image. I also have a massive fear of going to the doctors and any medical intervention, to the point where I will actively avoid going to see the GP. If I do, I'm highly unlikely to attend any recommended blood tests or further screening. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. I am scared of needles, and I'm so uncomfortable with anyone seeing me naked that I will not seek any medical advice for anything that is in a personal area, and as such I have never been for a smear test despite being 35 years old. I know you will probably shake your head at me, and tell me I'm silly. If I had a pound for every time someone said "You are so silly, it's a few minutes of slight discomfort and little embarrassment for all that peace of mind and to make sure anything you might have is caught early." I hear you all, and I tell you that my fear is so great, I would prefer to ignore it an potentially die in my ignorance and in pain. This is how terrified I am.

My problem however is this. I would like to be a mum, I'd like to have my own child, but because of all the issues I've just typed above I've put it off over and over again ... hoping I'd overcome this fear at some point ... and that I could do this. I have been to a hypnotherapist (for a 12 week course), and I've been to a councillor (for a 3 year stint), and I've scoured the web for any support groups and forums, but nothing has helped me and I've never found any like minded individuals. I can't keep putting it off. Time is tick tick ticking away from me and soon I will no longer have any choice in the matter and I'll regret never having kids for the rest of my life.

My main concern with pregnancy is not pain of natural child birth, as many mothers do. This does not bother me in the least. I know I can deal with that. These are my main sticking points. I do not feel at all comfortable being in a state of undress with anyone but my partner. There is absolutely no way on earth I would want another man to see me undressed, no matter how amazing a doctor he is, it's a complete no no. Also, and the biggest fear by far, is the risk of C-Section .... that's right from being terrified of having a cannula fitted to my hand all the way to the cutting open stuff. This is soooo far off my chart of fear I cannot begin to explain. It makes me shake and feel sick even thinking about it. I know I could never go through that. Never in a million years.

What I would want in an ideal world is to get pregnant, give birth at home naturally with only my partner there to deliver the baby. All in my own personal space, with only my partner, and no medical intervention whatsoever. I'm not stupid though, and I know this is unlikely to go down well at all.

So what can I do to get over my fears? I'm so upset I want to be a mum, but I know I can't overcome my fear, but I can't accept that because I want to be a mum, yet that upsets me because I don't think I'm brave enough to get through my fear. It's a vicious circle and the longer I debate it, the faster mother nature is taking my time away from me.

Who can I talk to? Are there others like me? I feel so alone and misunderstood.

6 Replies

Hi there Maya- I am so sorry to hear about your past and I really hope you do manage to find a way to become a mother that works for you. It sounds like you might have tokophobia and it might be an idea to join this facebook group so that you can talk to other people in a similar position? Have you spoken with your partner about it? Really hope you are okay. xx


Hi Judith,

No, I don't think I have tokophobia. I'm not fearful at all about the pain or giving birth naturally. I'm petrified of all the medical intervention and the risk of C-Section. I think I'm more a case of BII (Blood, Injection, Injury) phobia, specificially the fear of medical procedures ( This paragraph strikes a chord with me ... "Fear of medical procedures can be classified under a broader category of “Blood, Injection, and Injury Phobias”. This is one of five subtypes that classify specific phobias. A specific phobia is defined as a “marked and persistent fear that is excessive or unreasonable, cued by the presence (or anticipation) of a specific object or situation.” Often these fears begin to appear in childhood, around the age of 5 to 9. It seems to be a natural feeling to become squeamish at the sight of blood, injury or gross deformity, but many overcome these fears by the time they reach adulthood. Those who do not are more likely to avoid medical and dental procedures necessary to maintain health, jobs, etc. Research shows that when people encounter something that they have a specific phobia of many of them have a feeling of disgust which makes them not want to come near or experience that which is disgusting to them. This feeling of disgust, especially in the Blood, Injection, and Injury Phobias seems to be passed down in families. Women have been known to avoid becoming pregnant because it requires blood and medical examinations that they would rather avoid."

Sadly I can't find anything that says how I can help myself or overcome this.

Yes my partner is fully aware of my fear and it very understanding. I think he is frustrated he can't help me. He says he is fine either way with whatever I decide. Yes, he wants a family with me, but he is ok with no kids if I can't go through with it, he is still a dad to two kids from his previous marriage.

I'm afraid him already being a dad does hurt me, not because I'm resentful of his kids, because they are lovely children and so well behaved. It's because it reminds me frequently of what I can't have or give him, that his ex-wife could.


Sorry I must have misunderstood what you were saying originally, it makes sense now. Have you tried finding a forum for people suffering from BIIphobia? I think it's normal to feel how you feel about the kids and if you can find a forum that might be a big help as you will be able to hear how others feel and what they have done to try to move foreword. xx


I'm in the exact situation hun and I'm 28 weeks pregnant. I was abused sexually as a child so this has left me feeling vulnerable. I don't have magic answers unfortunately but if you want to pm me then go ahead and we can talk more and support each other. I am also wanting a home birth with only my partner present but I'm high risk and have had to be booked in at a hospital. I've even gone as far as to say I wont push unless I'm under water because then no one can stare at my lady parts for hours on end as I'm under water. Don't even get me started on c-section. I'm absolutely petrified of this and its not an option for me either. Actually being pregnant is making the end process more hard to overcome as I know it is gonna happen whether I like it or not. I've had to have about three internals this pregnancy and its made me go into a state of hysteria. Like I say, I'm in the same boat sp shoot me a message and we can talk more if you like. Hope I made you feel less alone, Leya xx


Hello Maya, although I have not experienced the same phobia and concerns as you, I have experienced some similar ones. Since I was a child I have been extremely terrified of being sick and anything to do with sick, even to watching cartoon sick on TV. I not have a 4 month old daughter but until I was pregnant I had never been to the doctors since I was 5 years old in fear I'd catch an illness or see someone be sick in there, I too but off going and would rather suffer in pain than be treated. This then escalated into a complete fear of the doctors and any medical buildings in general. I am not 23 years old. Last year me and my partner decided to try for a baby and I was so terrified of going to the doctors I waited until I was 11 weeks pregnant to eventually go after numerous arguments with my partner about how terrified I was, although he is understanding he could not get his head around how my fear came before our child's like.... Anyway, when I eventually went I could not believe how I'd been scared for the large majority of my life. Relating back to your situation there was never any instance where a doctor or midwife wanted to see anything other than just the bump of my stomach at check ups, all my clothes were kept on at every appointment, even shoes and cardigans. The midwife only measures the bump and finds he heartbeat, all of which lasts 2 minutes maximum! I too wanted to have a home birth with only my partner and a midwife there as I was in great fear of seeing other women throw up around me, as it is very common in the final stages of labour to trow up. However, my waters broke spontaneously and 24 hours later I HAD to go I to hospital as the baby was at risk. I was absolutely terrified. The midwives are extremely dignified and try and keep you at minimal discomfort and embarrassment when it comes to exposing your body. At all times through my labour I wore a gown and they also put a sheet over my legs from the waist to the ankles. Any internal checkups were done with just one hand under the blanket and I kept the gown on all the way to the actual pushing stage. My labour was extremely fast and was over in an hour so my body had not had a chance to prepare properly so I did have to be cut open as my daughters head would have tore me otherwise so the nurse did have to look under the gown to make the incision, however by this time I was in far too much pain to even care. I refused all forms of pain relief as I was so terrified it would make me sick so I was in such a mental daze, all you can focus on is the contractions and you are so unaware of everything around you. According to my partner I was saying things I don't even remember saying and I dont even remember anything that went on other than my own body and my own thoughts. A million people could have been in that room looking at me and I'd have never know. I understand it's very easy for me to say as I've already been through it but I cannot stress enough how true it is!!! The hospital and midwives are all understanding and accommodating. I demanded I kept my hotwater bottle pressed against my stomach as it was the only form of mental comfort I felt I had since I wasnt allowed the home birth I wanted. although hotwater bottles go against regulations they allowed me to keep it!!! I suggest you take a tour of your local hospital with your partner or a friend and ask if they allow gowns or sheets over you for as long as possible. Another option would be a water birth as you could wear a baggy t shirt and everythin would be hidden in the water?! Talk to as many other mothers as you can about their experiences, I doubt many midwives will go against what you ask of them, after all it is your birthing experience and not theirs?! Hope you find some comfort in my experiences! Best wishes x


Dear Maya

I am sorry to hear about your problem. And I do not know if it will be comforting for you, but we all have different problems and fears in one way or another. I wanted to recommend you cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which may help you get rid of your fears. Many people find it very useful becasause it teaches you how to overcome your problem step by step, with mini-steps actually. There are also self-help books abour CBT on that my GP had recommended, which I found really useful. I have had severe general anxiety and also health anxiety (hipochondria) and I have been treated. I also feel terrified of having medical intervention although I gave birth 8 years ago with C-section. I also had a colonoscopy and haemmorrhoids operation 2 years ago, when I was really terrified of becoming ansthesised but despite all the fears I had to do it. But believe me, after all these problems and treatments, I have realised that there are always things to be scared of out there and sometimes we just need to be a little bit brave or to learn to cope with unpleasant things or fears. Once you become pregnant, knowing that you have a child growing inside you will make you strong, and having your child after 9 months will make you a different person, because you will know that you have to be strong for your child. I hope that you will find a solution or the strength inside you to overcome your fers. And I wish you all the best.


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