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The scary thing that happens to some women after having a baby
bh has already delved into the commonness of postnatal depression, but now pregnant women are being advised to keep an eye out for another condition.
Unfortunately, postnatal or postpartum OCD is also on the rise.
Speaking to the dailymail.co.uk, perinatal psychiatrist Ian Jones says “around 1 per cent of the population has OCD at any one time” but that “2 to 3 per cent of women have it after childbirth”.
But what is OCD, exactly – and why is it more common in pregnant women?
To put it simply, OCD is defined as extreme anxiety as a result of unwanted thoughts. According to Jones, sufferers have irrational urges to counter these fears with rituals (such as repeated hand washing).
A new mother’s OCD usually takes one of two forms.
The first is a fear of germs and concern about hygiene around a new baby.
According to consultant perinatal psychiatrist Liz McDonald (also speaking to the dailymail.co.uk), this can involve a fear of “germs getting into the baby's bottle and the house”.
While it’s normal for new mothers to be vigilant about hygiene, “a woman with postnatal OCD might clean so much that her hands become raw… or start intensely cleaning a worktop she cleaned five minutes before”.
The second typical fear is about “direct harm coming to the child”.
Again, “it's normal for a mother to be slightly afraid that someone might hurt their child, or worried that they might hurt them by accident,” however the OCD is the conviction that she will do something terrible, on purpose.
To prevent this from happening, the mother might “avoid looking at the baby” altogether.
The symptoms of postnatal OCD are often confused with those of postnatal depression, but according to Dr McDonald, the difference between the two is that “depression is a mood disorder, whereas OCD is about anxiety.”
As such, it needs to be treated differently.
The bottom line? New mothers need to be aware of postnatal OCD (especially if they’ve had similar symptoms prior to giving birth) and speak to a health professional right away if they feel like it’s something they might be experiencing.
Were you aware of postnatal OCD?