Is social media driving pregnancy phobia

London : Horror stories of childbirth shared by new mothers on online forums and social media platforms like Facebook could be driving the rise in tokophobia -- a pathological terror of pregnancy and childbirth -- leading to more C-section requests and abortions, a media report said.

"You just have to Google childbirth and you're met with a tsunami of horror stories," BBC Health quoted Catriona Jones, a lecturer at the University of Hull as saying.

If you go to any online 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," she added.

Tokophobia is a mental condition defined as a severe fear or dread of childbirth. It affects around 14 per cent of women, and can be serious enough to lead to requests for caesarean sections, and abortions, the Guardian reported.

According to Professor Louise Kenny of the University of Liverpool, that tokophobia was seriously under-researched and there was little literature on the condition.

"(Stories) shared in safe environments can be quite healing and informative but some women are predisposed to developing a phobia due to stories taken out of context or experiences that are graphic," she noted.

Kenny added that the main causes of the condition varied depending on whether you were pregnant with your first or second child.

"Some women develop it due to an adverse birth experience but for others the main cause can be a history of childhood or adult sexual assault or abuse. It can also be due to previous exposure to a story or something they have seen on TV or social media," she explained.

Treatment for tokophobia includes cognitive behaviour therapy, one-to-one educational sessions with midwives, and "graded exposure", a process that involves having access to labour rooms or operating theatres in a gradual and non-threatening way.