What Is Postpartum OCD?
Updated: Jan 19
Have you ever had thoughts of cooking your newborn in the oven?
Hopefully not. While this may seem far-fetched for some, for others, it is not. These intrusive thoughts are common for those with Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
As we continue to spread awareness and normalize postpartum depression (PPD), we discover and categorize more subtypes of PPD, like Postpartum OCD.
What exactly is Postpartum OCD?
“Postpartum OCD is a type of postpartum anxiety disorder. It is characterized by intrusive thoughts and behaviors that are in response to a perceived danger toward their baby. These thoughts and behaviors are constant and repetitive, and they can severely disrupt daily life. Postpartum OCD requires treatment in order to manage and control symptoms.”
Who has it?
Due to factors such as misdiagnosis, underreporting, limited awareness, shame and guilt, etc, it is hard to get an accurate report of how many new parents are affected by postpartum OCD. Current statistics say anywhere between 3 and 5 percent of new moms experience postpartum OCD. New fathers also report having these symptoms, as well. Many experts believe that these statistics are actually much higher.
What causes it?
There is no one exact cause of postpartum OCD. However, there are some common risk factors associated. It is most likely to start within the first six weeks after the baby’s birth.
Current diagnosis of OCD, or history of OCD.
Sudden drops in hormones after birth
Fatigue, overwhelming feelings
Baseline diagnosis of anxiety or depression prior to birth
Unmet expectations regarding motherhood
What are the symptoms?
Here are some of the common things mothers with postpartum OCD will experience:
Unwanted images of hurting the baby such as dropping or throwing him/her
Concerns about accidentally causing the baby harm through carelessness
Intrusive and unwanted thoughts of suffocating or stabbing the baby
Unwanted and disturbing thoughts of abusing the baby
Scared of making poor decisions that will cause the baby harm or death
Fear that the baby will develop a serious disease
Fear of exposing the baby to toxins and chemicals and other environmental pollutants
Getting rid of sharp objects such as knives or scissors
Not feeding the baby out of fear of poisoning him/her
Not changing diapers out of fear of sexually abusing the baby
Not consuming certain foods or medications out of fear of harming the baby
Deliberately avoiding watching or reading the news when it involves child abuse
Obsessively checking the baby while he/she sleeps
Asking family members for reassurance that the baby has not been harmed or abused
Going over the day’s events mentally to ensure that nothing bad has happened to the baby
What is the treatment?
Like many other anxiety disorders, treatment typically involves a combination of therapy and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, traditional therapies, antidepressants, anti-anxieties, and anti-psychotics may be prescribed. Because this disorder can sometimes be caused by hormone imbalances, symptoms may eventually resolve on their own. What’s important to remember is to always discuss this with your physician.
Getting help is the first step in a better life for you and your child.
Never be ashamed to seek treatment!
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Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN