Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder involves obsessions and compulsions that start or worsen in the postpartum period. They typically develop within days to a month after delivery. The International OCD Foundation estimates that approximately 1-2% of postpartum women develop postpartum OCD. Among women who already have OCD, as many as 39% experience worsening of symptoms in the postpartum.

Symptoms of Postpartum OCD may include all the symptoms of OCD during other times of life plus the following symptoms that are specific to the postpartum period:

  • Obsessions about the baby being harmed
  • Obsessional fears that you may harm the baby even though you do not want to
  • Compulsions to check that the baby is safe
  • Avoidance of the baby out of fear that you may harm him/her even though you do not want to
  • Problems caring for or bonding with the baby due to these obsessions/compulsions

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Prevalence and Risk Factors

The International OCD Foundation estimates that approximately 1-2% of postpartum women develop postpartum OCD. Among women who already have OCD, as many as 39% experience worsening of symptoms in the postpartum. Having OCD symptoms before or during pregnancy increases the risk of postpartum OCD.

Having a history of premenstrual worsening of OCD symptoms increases the risk of postpartum worsening of OCD.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Postpartum OCD may include all the symptoms of OCD during other times of life plus the following symptoms that are specific to the postpartum period:

  • Obsessions about the baby being harmed
  • Obsessional fears that you may harm the baby even though you do not want to
  • Compulsions to check that the baby is safe
  • Avoidance of the baby out of fear that you may harm him/her even though you do not want to
  • Problems caring for or bonding with the baby due to these obsessions/compulsions

Treatment Options

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that is specifically tailored to the treatment of OCD. SSRI’s are often used to treat postpartum OCD. Clinicians in the Women’s Mental Health Program at Lindner Center of HOPE have expertise and experience using such medications in women who are breast-feeding.


Read more about OCD, click here.

Read more about OCD at International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), click here.

Postpartum and Perinatal OCD