Is tokophobia ruining your sex life?

Are you obsessively trying to either avoid or score a pregnancy? Here's how this burden can affect your sex life.

Mental health is important for good sex.
Stop overthinking about pregnancy, and enjoy sex while it lasts. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Radhika Bhirani Updated on: 13 July 2022, 10:14 am IST
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Fear or desire. When it comes to pregnancy, both these emotions can be a spoilsport for your sex life.

Deeksha Setia (name changed) was 31 years old when she started scaling the professional ladder. She had been married for two years, the oh-so-typical ‘right time’ for starting a family. But having kids was nowhere on her mind. Sex was; as was pleasure. But the fear of pregnancy kept her on tenterhooks between the sheets. It wasn’t just about her career, it was also an avalanche of apprehensions around childbirth and postpartum life. Soon enough, the focus of sex turned from pleasure to the pressure of keeping any chance of pregnancy away. Sex sessions, she says, started ending before her partner could finish with a sperm splash into the condom. The slightest of doubt about a break would lead her to pop a morning-after pill. And she started avoiding sex on her fertile days.

Cut to being 36 years old, Deeksha is struggling to keep the spark alive in her bedroom life. Sex has turned into a calculated activity, matched to the ovulation calendar instead of being driven by organic arousal. Why? Because now she wants a taste of pregnancy.

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Fertility problems have become common.
Fertility problems have become common. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How overthinking affects your sex life

The lesson to learn here is that overthinking can kill your sex life, explains Dr. Nimmi Mahajan, Lead Gynaecologist at Proactive For Her.

“Fear of pregnancy, and even the desire to get pregnant can directly affect how you approach sexual intercourse. If your focus during sexual intercourse is not pleasure, libido goes down time with time. Eventually, this can lead to lowered desire, disinterest in sex, and issues with the partner due to dissatisfied sex life. This can have a much larger impact on couples that are trying to get pregnant as well as those that are avoiding pregnancy,” Dr Mahajan tells Health Shots.

Stress or anxiety leads to increased production of stress hormones in the body, in turn affecting your hypothalamic pituitary ovarian (HPO) axis and reproductive functions. It becomes a vicious chain.

Ovulation calendar
Have you also been tracking your ovulation calendar? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Stress and Sex

Scientifically speaking, when you are overthinking the consequences of sexual intercourse, your body releases stress-inducing or neuroendocrine hormones instead of releasing endorphins. And as a result, you feel less aroused.

“This can also lead to vaginal dryness and lack of adequate lubrication, which consequentially results in painful or un-enjoyable sexual intercourse. If you are stressed and not fully committed to enjoying the activity, your pelvic floor muscles can contract, making penetration difficult,” Dr Mahajan adds.

In extreme cases, this constant fear of getting pregnant can also cause a more severe condition called vaginismus. As per layman terms, it is simply the involuntary contraction of muscles around the vagina, making penetrative sex a painful experience.

According to the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, a paralyzing fear of pregnancy is called tokophobia. And women going through it tend to avoid childbirth.

Unhappy sex life
Your sex life could be deeply impacted. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The impact of an obsessive desire for pregnancy

There are also those who keep an obsessive tab on their ‘fertile window’ in the hope to get pregnant. If husbands of these women were to be asked, they are likely to name period and ovulation trackers for being their biggest enemy in bed!

Saurabh Singh (name changed), 38, is one. “When will we do it next? Today is the most fertile day! We have just 3 days left for our best chance this month! My calendar says chances are high.” These are some of the statements he’s tired of hearing from his wife month after month.

A preoccupation with a certain thought will always create an interference in the activity around which the preoccupation is occurring. And this holds true even when it comes to intimacy, says senior psychologist Dr Kamna Chhibber.

“If you’re keeping a specific goal in the mind, it will take spontaneity away from the experience. Instead of focusing on the joy, happiness and closeness of being with your partner, you are likely to focus more on ‘is this going to lead to the outcome that I want?’. And that in itself can take away from the goodness of the experience,” Dr Chhibber tells Health Shots.

So, try to have better sex more often.

Overthinking about pregnancy
Trying to conceive can also be mentally debilitating. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How should couples improve their sex life:

1. Be spontaneous

Couples should try to maintain spontaneity when it comes to intimacy. That could also lead to the sexual experience to being good enough for each of them.

2. Live in the moment

It is important to try and be present in that experience with a great sense of joy.

3. Try to find solutions

Many times it can be tough for couples if they have already gone through a situation, are struggling to get pregnant due to fertility issues, or are undergoing treatment for pregnancy. All of these create a lot of pressure, which is also not helped by comments and questions from people around.

So, apart from tackling your own fears and desires of sex, you may end up trying to make sense of the larger thought processes that relate to your anxieties, experiences, compatibility, comparisons and commentary. The key, as Dr Chhibber says, is to find solutions together as a couple.

couple with pregnancy issues
Remember, you’re in it, together! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Be on the same page

Being on the same page and having that support in your partner can be very helpful in tackling some of these processes. “You may face disappointments, but you will be able to circumvent them better together,” adds the expert.

5. Speak up

If you feel that there are certain people around who may be creating pressure in your mind, it is important to share with them that their intervention or suggestions aren’t being helpful.

Besides, on the topic of fear of pregnancy, Dr Chhibber says that while mommyhood can continue to be celebrated, another truth needs a nod. “No matter how absurd it would be to the society’s conventional idea of a ‘complete woman’, not every woman wants to be a mom.”

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About the Author
Radhika Bhirani Radhika Bhirani

Content Head for Healthshots.

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