Perinatal/Postpartum OCD: Reasons, Signs & Treatment

Postpartum OCD – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Pregnancy and childbirth bring many physical changes in a woman’s body, but it may also bring various psychological changes in you. One such condition that may affect a newbie-mommy is postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Read the following article to know the causes and symptoms of postpartum OCD and the various treatment options available for this condition.

What is Postpartum OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a very common mental illness that may affect both men and women at any stage of life. Where in some women this condition may be prevalent before getting pregnant, on the other hand, few women may experience OCD after childbirth too, and in this case, it is known as perinatal OCD.

1. How Common Is It

As discussed above OCD is very common, and in a study, it was established that one in every hundred women might experience this disorder during pregnancy. On the other hand, the rate may increase by up to 2 to 3 in every hundred women, post childbirth. However, there is not enough evidence available that mentions how common in perinatal OCD.

2. Which Mothers Are More Prone to It

It is observed that this mental illness may affect the first time mothers the most, however, you may experience it anytime during or after your pregnancy, the number does not matter. Also, if you have already experienced OCD in your previous pregnancy, then the chances are you may experience it in all your subsequent pregnancies too. The factors that may affect your chances of getting affected by this condition include hormonal issues as well as genetics. Sometimes, it is also seen that OCD after childbirth may affect the father too.

3. How Long Does Postpartum OCD Last

In case you are a first-time mommy with OCD, then it is quite likely that you may get rid of this condition after the birth of your baby. However, that may not be true in most of the cases, as many women may have it even after the birth of their baby. Where for some women, pregnancy and childbirth may have no impact on their symptoms, others may experience improved symptoms. However, one-third of women who may already be affected with OCD may see aggravated symptoms. You must be wondering when the postpartum OCD goes away, well, it may remain persistent or reoccur in case you do not take any treatment for this disorder.

Causes of Perinatal OCD

OCD is very common in pregnancy and even post-pregnancy. Following are the two main causes of perinatal OCD.

1. Psychological Reasons

Parents may experience a sudden increase in responsibilities soon after the birth of their baby, which leads to anxiety. The anxiety may further lead to obsessive-compulsive thoughts, behaviour, and patterns.

2. Biological Reasons

The various hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy and after childbirth may lead to perinatal OCD. This happens when a woman may experience the surge in various hormones such as progesterone and oxytocin, which may lead to the production of serotonin. The production of serotonin may increase the chances of OCD.

A young tired mother

Postpartum OCD Symptoms

The postpartum OCD anxiety symptoms may differ from one to another as these may depend on how a woman thinks. However, the following are some of the obsessive-compulsive thoughts, emotions, and compulsions that you may experience:

1. OCD Thoughts and Emotions

Here are some of the postnatal OCD intrusive thoughts and emotions that you may experience:

  • You may fear that you may infect your baby.
  • You may get thoughts of suffocating or harming your baby.
  • You may fear that your baby may get harmed due to your carelessness or negligence.
  • You may worry that your baby may die in your arms.
  • You will think that you may accidentally harm your little one by exposing him to various harmful chemicals, germs, bacteria etc.
  • You may feel the urge to shake your baby vigorously.
  • You may fear that your baby may choke, and you may not be able to do anything.

2. OCD Compulsions

Here are some compulsions that you as a new mother may experience:

  • You may keep checking on your baby to see if he is breathing.
  • You may keep assessing your actions of the entire day to see whether or not you may have done something that could have harmed your baby.
  • You fear to feed your baby, thinking that you may poison him.
  • You may dread changing your baby’s diaper thinking you may sexually assault your baby.
  • You may need constant assurance from your partner or family members that you are doing a good job of raising your baby and you are not doing anything to harm him.
  • You may worry about taking some medicines or certain food items, thinking that it may affect your breast milk.

How to Treat Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The severity of OCD may vary from case to case, and your doctor may conduct a postpartum OCD test to check the severity of your condition. This psychological disorder not only affects the life of the person who has this disorder but also affects the lives of various other people who may be closely connected to this person. However, the good news is that postpartum OCD recovery is possible or in other words; this ailment can be treated. Therefore, as soon as you register any of the above-mentioned symptoms or other related symptoms, you should seek medical help. Here are some of the treatment options that may be suggested:

1. CBT

CBT or cognitive behaviour therapy may be offered as the first line treatment option in most cases. Various studies have not only proved the efficacy of this method of treatment, but it has also proved that it is absolutely safe for the newbie-mommies or the mommies-to-be. The aim of this treatment is to offer a goal-oriented, structured, problem-focused and short-term approach to cure the patient.

2. Medications

Sometimes your doctor may prescribe certain medications along with cognitive behaviour therapy. Until or unless it is completely necessary, your doctor may not prescribe any medication. However, if he feels the need, then he may prescribe the medicines that may be safe for you during pregnancy as well as post-pregnancy when you are in the breastfeeding stage.

Effective Self-Help Tips

Here are some effective self-help tips that may help you in dealing with your condition:

  1. Do not ever blame or curse yourself for having weird thoughts and emotions.
  2. Do not take refuge in drugs, alcohol, or smoking to keep anxiety at bay.
  3. Talk to your partner, family members, or friends about your feelings. Venting out is a great way of getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings.
  4. Take care of yourself by eating good and healthy foods, getting some good sleep and even taking out some me-time is also recommended.
  5. Join any self-help groups that may have moms who face the similar issues and an expert who may offer proper guidance.
  6. Learn about your condition. Getting to know that you are not the only one suffering from this illness and knowing more about it may help a great deal.
  7. You may take help from self-help books that may help in aiding your recovery. These may either be prescribed by a professional, or you may procure on your own.Postpartum depression

Is Postpartum OCD Related to Postnatal Depression?

Though the symptoms of both these mental ailments may appear similar in most cases, however, both these conditions are very different from each other. Postnatal depression may be characterized by low moods, feelings of distress, or feeling guilty. Postnatal depression may affect approximately 10 to 15 women in every 100 women after childbirth. Sometimes postpartum OCD may develop with postnatal depression. In some cases, both these conditions may lead to psychosis, which is a serious mental disorder.

Difference Between Postpartum OCD and Psychosis

If you are wondering can postpartum OCD turn into psychosis, the answer is yes it may. Psychosis is one of the fatal mental illnesses that a woman may suffer after giving birth. A woman with postpartum OCD may feel disturbed and guilty for her violent and weird thoughts about her baby, in case of psychosis, the woman feels no guilt and is very capable of causing harm to her baby. Although this mental condition is not very common and may only affect one in every thousand women, it may lead to various fatal complications and thus cannot be neglected and may require immediate treatment.

We often do not pay heed to mental illnesses thinking that we may be capable of dealing with them on our own. However, that is not the case because the way you need to get help and guidance to get yourself treated for any physical ailment, you need the same for mental disorders too. Therefore, we recommend as soon as you register any symptoms of postpartum OCD, you should seek medical help for the same to enjoy motherhood in a better way.

Also Read: Postpartum Insomnia

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