Don’t assume you’re alone if you have a fear of blood. Hemophobia is a diagnosable condition that describes people who are scared of blood. Since most people don’t encounter blood in their daily lives, it may seem like no big deal. But when you’re pregnant, it can be a huge challenge to navigate. Hemophobia while expecting is more common than you think. One study from 2008 found that of the 1,529 pregnant women it surveyed, 7.2% met the criteria of a hemophobia diagnosis.
Having any phobia can be difficult, but hemophobia in pregnancy presents a unique challenge. Here’s what you need to know about hemophobia in pregnancy and how to manage it.
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What Is Hemophobia?
Hemophobia is a fear of blood. It’s normal to feel uneasy at the sight of blood. But to classify as a phobia, it needs to be an extreme fear of seeing blood that can disrupt daily life. It can make getting medical tests difficult or even the thought of blood triggering.
According to Healthline, it’s normal to experience a range of physical and emotional symptoms when triggered by a phobia, like hemophobia, including:
- Panic attacks
- Fast heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Hot or cold flashes
- Tightness or pain in chest
- Feeling like you’ll die or pass out
- Feeling need to escape the situation
- Feeling a loss of control, powerlessness
Hemophobia can also trigger a vasovagal response. This is when the body experiences a drop in heart rate and blood pressure in response to a fear. This can make the individual feel dizzy and faint. Although fainting isn’t common in most other phobias, this response happens in 80% of people with hemophobia, a 2014 study discovered.
Healthline explains that hemophobia affects 3-4% of the world’s population and is most commonly observed in early adolescence. But there are risk factors that make a person more likely to suffer from this phobia, including the following:
- History of trauma
- Anxious and/or overprotective caregiver
Problems With Hemophobia & Pregnancy
There are a variety of situations in which you may be exposed to blood in pregnancy, including during blood tests and childbirth itself. This can be a big challenge (and source of anxiety) for expecting women who know they have hemophobia. Phobias trigger a stressful response in the body, which can take a bigger toll in pregnancy. For example, stress can raise your blood pressure and put you at risk of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication linked to low birth weight and premature delivery.
On the contrary, low blood pressure is common with phobias but dangerous in pregnancy. Medical News Today explains that it can affect the rate at which the fetus receives blood. If the blood supply is too low, it can damage the fetus and raises the risk of stillbirth.
In general, it’s common to feel more anxious pregnancy. You’re going through a lot of physical changes (especially hormonal) and preparing to welcome a new baby can be overwhelming. You’re more likely to be anxious in pregnancy if:
- It’s a high-risk pregnancy
- You’ve experienced a miscarriage
- You have a history of depression, anxiety
- You’re going through big life stressors (like marital or financial problems)
But what’s important to note is that because pregnancy predisposes you to higher anxiety, it can exacerbate the symptoms of hemophobia, making your phobia even harder to navigate. This is why proper management techniques are crucial to help prevent your phobia from being triggered.
How To Manage Hemophobia
There are various treatment potions for hemophobia to help people manage the symptoms as well as overcome the phobia. The sooner you learn management techniques for the phobia, the sooner you’ll tend to see improvement. If you plan or want to become pregnant soon, starting treatment for hemophobia can be beneficial, given that pregnancy can exacerbate its symptoms.
Treatment options and management techniques for hemophobia include the following:
There are different kinds of therapies targeted towards helping people overcome phobias, like hemophobia. For example, exposure therapy helps people face the fear head-on. This can involve using visualization exercises or even seeing the object of fear close-up. This is a long-term form of therapy.
Cognitive therapy, on the other hand, helps the individual recognize their feelings of anxiety about the phobia. This can help someone with hemophobia change their perspective on blood, and challenge what they think is happening during medical procedures or injuries involving blood.
Using strategies that help you relax can fight off the symptoms of hemophobia in the moment, and calm you down from a state of panic. There’s a variety of techniques to choose from, and what works for someone may not for another.
- Deep breathing
- Music and art therapy
- Spending time outdoors
Taking steps to reduce your anxiety in pregnancy can improve your overall prenatal health, whether or not you struggle with hemophobia. Read our in-depth guide for more tips on how to reduce prenatal anxiety, and also our list of the top foods to help combat anxiety during pregnancy.
Tell your doctor
Finally, don’t keep your phobia to yourself. It’s best to let your doctor know as soon as possible what you’re feeling and your history with the phobia. After all, you don’t want them to discover your fear when doing bloodwork and you suddenly pass out!
Giving your doctor (or other medical professionals you’re working with) a heads up lets them know to be prepared in case of emergency. It also gives them the opportunity to make you feel more comfortable. Your doctor can guide you through each step that’s triggering for your phobia and offer advice for how to better manage your fear.
It's also wise to discuss your pregnancy with any mental health professionals you’ve seen for your phobia. They’re likely familiar with your health history and will be able to give you more specific advice tailored to your needs.
Remember, hemophobia is a real phobia that can be debilitating. Don’t let a doctor dismiss your fears or convince you that it’s something to easily get over. But with proper management techniques, you can navigate your phobia and have a smooth pregnancy.