Women’s Pregnancy Fears: Reasons Why Some Women Don’t Want Pregnancy

By Arlyn May Bongay | Last Updated July 15, 2013

Contrary to presumptions of female productivity, not every woman wants to get pregnant. In the US, of the 4,000 respondents who haven’t conceived, there is a staggering difference between the 14% who are trying to get pregnant and the 60% who are trying not to. What gives?

The Author and her husband poses for their Maternity shoot; the author's 6-month belly carefully cradled by the husband's hands

“The numbers have promise though, for the remaining percentage account for women who are ambivalent. Those who won’t mind getting pregnant or not make up 26% of the 4,000 respondents.” 1 This paints a picture of hesitation.

The Woman of the New Society

If you Google “Expectations for women”, it will give you a ready list of related articles. But if you look closer, the keywords ‘childbearing’ or ‘motherhood’ will not appear unless (of course) you type it in for a more specific search. Among many beliefs of a woman’s role in the present generation, the general list is; How to Cook/Clean/Do Anything, To be Respectable, To Act Like a Lady, To Have a Sense of Humor. 2 Perhaps item number one, “How to Cook/Clean/Do Anything”, is enough basis for the ability to provide children. But “To Be Able to Bear Children” is no longer a specific societal requirement apart from being funny. That is contrary to the image of women in the past. Women in the sixteenth century were perceived to be fragile and had limited roles. These limits however, included the role of being a mother. 3 Ironically, that is some hard limit because being a mother is never a picnic regardless which era a woman is born into.

As society casts a different mold for the female denomination, women have come to terms with her new semblance. In doing so, she has eliminated some functions her anatomy was wrought for. To fit into the “now”, daughters are altered from their mothers despite genetic traits. 4

My mother’s generation held on to empowerment through motherhood. My generation motivates me to be empowered even if I haven’t had children. Contributors to Experience Project share this view with me in so many levels. One of the top response is concerned about the return of investment. She would rather have pets to call children. This way she can profit from selling their offspring,compared to having a child of her own who cannot recompense for a $200,000 investment. 5

The Trauma of Loss

Early in the 21st Century, a dismal revelation about miscarriage opened women’s eyes to the possibilities of loss. In 2004, “Hope is Like the Sun” by Lisa Church, enlightened its readers. Owing to her experience, Church reveals the emotions behind it, the grief, the coping and the eventual healing. 6 In her book, 900,000 of the 1M confirmed pregnancies end up with loss. Multiply that by four and you roughly get the annual number next to the reality of 4.4M confirmed conception. 500,00 of that number are lost in the 20th week. Then there is the 26,000 recorded still-births. The number extends to infant death from birth onwards. 7 A contributor in Experience Project admits that with two losses, she felt that she wasn’t cut for the cloth.

What she hasn’t mentioned is the emotional baggage that goes with it. Considering that it takes two to tango, a woman has to deal with the loss for herself and at the same time deal with the loss with and for her partner. While women are known to be more expressive, male coping is alternately varied. Their ulterior instinct is to fix the crisis they are facing. But a miscarriage is one challenge that can almost inconceivably be changed. 8, 9Hence, there is an impending fear for the couple, especially for the woman, of not only losing the next child but ultimately losing the life of their relationship. 10

Distorted Post-Pregnancy Self-Image

Notwithstanding the context of her disclosure, Jillian Michaels, the resident trainer of  The Biggest Loser shocks people about her views in pregnancy. In her statement in Huffington Post, she says that she would rather adopt than allow her body through the changes. She is, and I quote her, “unwilling”. 11 Why? Like her, women of today are driven by the Barbie Mentality. Instead of relishing the physical metamorphosis, there is only the stigma of weight gain. Fat is no longer a lipid compound, it has become a predisposing fear. 12

Pocrescophobia or Obesophobia, the fear of gaining weight is an accepted psychological term. It stems from past experiences or knowing that family members wear XLs to XXXLs thus the probability. 13 Brain scans have helped discover how women have a built-in pocrescophobia. A study where men and women were shown pictures of obese people, told the contrariety. The female brain area of processing for identity and self-reflection got worked up. The male brain on the other hand, wasn’t as interested. 14 Thanks to the print, TV and social media as well as Hollywood actresses get to flaunt their bumps with unsettling flawlessness. Plus the list of transforming body parts–stretch marks, linea negra, discolorations on visible areas–is enough to get women agitated. 15

The Stories They Tell Us

Bragging rights are due to those who have successfully gone through the worst in giving birth. As you decide to become pregnant or while you are pregnant you will become a magnet of much experienced women. Expect to be bombarded with all sorts of scary stories involving vomiting, dental problems and physical mutation. 16

Not to be missed is the fear that your partner might leave you. It might even cross your mind that your relationship will change as the way your partner sees you will also change. The list goes on. Internal and external fears are the very factors that add up to tocophobia—the fear of being pregnant. 17

The Author in a Maternity shoot for her second baby at 6 months, she is set against a backdrop of sunset in the fields, naked from the top, symbolic of fearful hope for her and her child's future

The Author in a Maternity shoot for her second baby at 6 months, she is set against a backdrop of sunset in the fields, naked from the top, symbolic of fearful hope for her and her child’s future

If You Ask Me…

I’ve been there, done that. But I won’t be the one to lay the scary stories on the table for you. In anything that we do, there will always be risks. Unfortunately, giving life is not one endeavor that we can have second thoughts about once we are on the horse. My husband and I are pro-life and we both agreed to children at the start of our relationship. It is best to have a firm set of decisions with other people who will be involved; your husband, partner, mother, and important family members and friends. This way, should there be unwanted losses, or (gasp) unwanted pregnancies, you will always have a support system, willing to help you through it.

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Image credits Jessie Villegas*




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