Postpartum OCD is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that can affect women after they give birth. It is estimated that 1 in every 200 women experiences postpartum OCD, and it can be very distressing for mothers who are trying to take care of their new babies. If you are experiencing symptoms of OCD, it is important to get help right away. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms and various treatment options available.
What Is Postpartum OCD?
It is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder that can occur in the weeks or months after giving birth. It is estimated that up to 15% of women experience some form of postpartum OCD, though it is often underdiagnosed. Postpartum OCD can be very distressing for mothers, as they may have intrusive thoughts about harming their babies. They may also have fears about themselves or their babies becoming sick or injured. In some cases, women may even avoid contact with their babies altogether.
Are Postpartum OCD and Postpartum Depression Related?
Postpartum OCD and postpartum depression are two different disorders, though they can both occur in the postpartum period. While postpartum OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsions, postpartum depression is marked by sadness, anxiety, and fatigue. While depression can lead to obsessive thoughts and stress caused by OCD can turn into depression, the two disorders are distinct. Both disorders can be treated with medication and therapy.
Symptoms Of Postpartum OCD
The symptoms can vary from woman to woman, but some common symptoms are associated with the disorder. These include:
- Intrusive thoughts about harming your baby or yourself
- Excessive worrying about your baby’s health and safety
- Avoidance of activities that could harm your baby, such as driving or using sharp objects
- Compulsively checking on your baby’s breathing or health
- Excessive cleaning and hand-washing
- Seeking reassurance from others about your baby’s safety
Causes Of Postpartum OCD
There is no single cause, but there are several factors that may contribute to the development of the disorder. These include:
- Hormonal changes: After giving birth, women experience a sharp drop in the hormone estrogen. This can lead to mood swings and anxiety, which may trigger OCD symptoms.
- Sleep deprivation: Lack of sleep is common in the postpartum period, and it can worsen OCD symptoms.
- Stress: The stress of caring for a new baby can be overwhelming, and it may trigger OCD symptoms.
- Genetics: If you have a family history of OCD, you may be more likely to develop the disorder after giving birth.
Treatment Of Postpartum OCD
If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum OCD, it is important to seek professional help. There are several treatment options available for women with postpartum OCD, including:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT helps to identify and change negative thinking patterns. By identifying these thoughts, you can learn to challenge and reframe them. Cognitive behavioral therapy works by showing people that they may not be able to control everything in the world, but they can control how they react and deal with it.
Exposure And Response Prevention (ERP)
ERP involves exposure to the things that trigger your OCD symptoms, followed by learning how to manage the anxiety without engaging in compulsions. It might feel overwhelming to face your fears head-on, but with the help of a trained therapist, it can be an effective treatment for postpartum OCD.
For example, a mother with postpartum OCD may be asked to hold her baby without washing her hands first, to desensitize herself to the fear of germs.
Several types of medication can be effective in treating OCD, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation, low levels of serotonin have been linked with depression, and thereby increasing its levels can help to reduce the severity of OCD symptoms.
There are also several things you can do at home to help manage your OCD symptoms. These include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep
Self-care measures may not cure your condition, but they might help you get better. It’s difficult to find time for yourself while caring for a newborn baby, yet doing so can benefit your emotional well-being and ability to be a more present mother.
Herbs and supplements are also being explored as potential treatments for postpartum OCD. Some studies have shown that omega-three fatty acids may help to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Probiotics have also been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. While more research is needed, these natural remedies may offer some relief for women with postpartum OCD.
Can Postpartum OCD Be Prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent OCD, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk. These include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. If you have a family history of OCD, you may be at higher risk for developing the disorder after giving birth. If you are concerned about your risk, talk to your doctor.
In a nutshell, postpartum OCD can occur after having a baby. It is characterized by intrusive thoughts and compulsions related to the care of the baby. If you are experiencing symptoms of OCD, it is important to seek professional help. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention, medication, and self-care. Postpartum OCD is different from postpartum depression, though both can occur in the postpartum period.
If you think you might have OCD, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or mental health professional. For more insights into dealing with OCD, you can reach out to Therapy Mantra. Our team of highly professional mental health experts offers reliable and effective online therapy services. Visit our website to book an online therapy session or you may also download our free OCD treatment app on Android or iOS for more information.