In 2007, Helen Mirren shared what made her decide never to have children. In an interview with an Australian journalist, the award-winning English actress admitted it was an explicit video of childbirth, shown to her in her early teens when she attended a convent school. Thirty seconds into what the film deemed “the miracle of childbirth,” two 13-year-old boys fainted and had to be carried out of the classroom. That short break with the lights on—during which all of the children desperately avoided eye contact—gave Mirren the chance to realize she couldn’t watch the rest of the film.
"I swear it traumatized me to this day,” she said. “I haven't had children and now I can't look at anything to do with childbirth. It absolutely disgusts me."
This sentiment is not uncommon. Though there aren’t statistics in the United States for a pathological anxiety over pregnancy and childbirth—known as tokophobia—studies in Australia and Britain have found that 6 percent of pregnant women report a disabling fear of having babies, while 13 percent of women who are not yet pregnant are afraid enough to postpone or avoid pregnancy altogether. First studied in Paris in 1858, tokophobia wasn’t introduced into medical literature until 2000, when it was classified in the The British Journal of Psychiatry. Before then, The Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology noted, “there were already several studies concerning the fear of childbirth, but they described the discomfort of pregnant women facing childbirth as a general fear, often quite natural for an event considered to be unknown and painful.”