Many women have heard of postpartum depression but may be unaware of
postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is the most
misunderstood and underdiagnosed mood disorder postpartum.
Let’s address postpartum OCD today.
What exactly is Postpartum OCD?
Postpartum OCD is a form of anxiety disorder that occurs after childbirth.
All of the above can be symptoms of postpartum OCD.
You may experience intrusive thinking and actions in reaction to a possible
threat to your children. These feelings and actions are persistent and
repeated, and have the potential to interrupt everyday life seriously.
Postpartum OCD is a severe disorder that needs treatment to relieve and
If you are suffering from postpartum OCD you are generally mindful of your
repetitive impulses yet are unable to control them. Instead, the emotions
trigger counterproductive habits as well as other effects.
All of the above could be symptoms of postpartum OCD.
Symptoms of postpartum OCD include:
Obsessions, also known as intrusive thoughts. These are persistent,
repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. They are
very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced
Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over
again to reduce her fears and obsessions, such as needing to clean
constantly, check things many times, count or reorder things.
A sense of horror about the obsessions
Fear of being left alone with the infant
Hypervigilance in protecting the infant
If you have postpartum OCD you know that their thoughts are bizarre and are
very unlikely to ever act on them.
What distinguishes postpartum OCD from other types of OCD?
Obsessions and compulsions in postpartum OCD typically focus on the
newborn child. Obsessions of the baby being injured, poisoned, or
missing, for example, can exist, as well as compulsive rituals
including monitoring, mental rituals, and so on.
The person can also engage in extreme avoidance, for example,
avoiding bathing or carrying the infant.
Unlike OCD, which usually develops progressively, postpartum OCD
develops quickly, coinciding with thoughts of being trapped and in
charge of the baby.
You may not need to be diagnosed with OCD to feel the symptoms. A large
study from Northwestern University found that up to 11% of new
moms will develop these symptoms at two weeks and six months
Postpartum OCD symptoms have also been observed in new fathers. The
repeated, disturbing images and emotions are terrifying and can appear "out
of nowhere." According to research, these images are disturbing in nature,
not delusory, and have a relatively low chance of being acted upon. It is
much more likely that the person experiencing this symptom would take
precautions to prevent unintended damage to the infant.
Around half of the women who recorded OCD symptoms stated their conditions
improved six months after the birth; however, some women
experienced OCD later.
It could be that some types of obsessions and compulsions, such as those
regarding cleanliness and sanitation, are typical and suitable for a new
parent. However, it becomes deleterious and pathologic as it comes into
conflict with ordinary day-to-day life and appropriate care for the infant
Factors Causing Postpartum OCD
All of the above!
Like most mental health conditions, it is ambiguous why the postnatal
period is a considerable risk for the initiation of OCD for certain women.
From a biological standpoint, it has been suggested that significant
increases in hormones such as estrogen could be partially to blame.
Hormones may interfere with the action of neurotransmitters in the brain,
such as serotonin. Serotonin process disruptions have been strongly linked
to the progression of OCD.
From a psychosocial standpoint, the birth of a new baby brings with it a
slew of unforeseen challenges that can be daunting for some mothers. Stress
has been linked to trigger OCD.
Yes, postpartum OCD should be treated in the same manner as other forms of
OCD are. For most moms, postpartum OCD may be temporary and for some they
will have to continue to learn to manage their symptoms even after your
baby is grown.
Among the treatment options for postpartum OCD are:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Recognizing that intrusive feelings are natural and not harmful.
Testing the person's interpretation of their obsessive thinking.
Progressively addressing previously ignored situations and
Minimizing the use of compulsive rituals in the treatment of
SSRI (serotonin reuptake inhibitor) medication
Most OCD medications are generally safe to use in pregnant or
It is important to consult with your healthcare provider.
Don’t be alarmed if you are having any symptoms and think you may have
It is not your fault, and it is treatable!
Consult a health care practitioner if you think you have postpartum OCD. It
is important to note that the postpartum phase is all about self-care. You
will only benefit the kid if you've taken care of yourself first.
As always please reach out to MaternalWell text support for any general
questions or schedule a one-on-one consultation with our postpartum mental