Postpartum OCD

Postpartum OCD is a particular kind of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that occurs in people who have recently given birth to a baby.

Although postpartum OCD looks a lot like other forms of OCD, it usually involves obsessions and compulsions that are specifically related to the baby and its care. Postpartum OCD can happen even to people who do not experience OCD symptoms otherwise.

Postpartum OCD usually begins between a few days and a few weeks after the baby’s birth. In some cases, it can also begin during pregnancy.

It’s very common for new parents to experience perinatal mental health challenges after the birth of a child, but if your worries about your child feel particularly obsessive or inescapable, you may be dealing with postpartum OCD.

How common is postpartum OCD?

According to Postpartum Support International, around 3 to 5% of new mothers experience postpartum OCD. New fathers can also experience postpartum OCD, although this is less common.

However, some studies indicate that postpartum OCD may actually be more common than some research suggests.

Although the postpartum OCD can happen to anyone, it’s a bit more common for people who have previously been diagnosed with OCD or anxiety, as well as people with family histories of those disorders.

What are some symptoms of postpartum OCD?

Like other kinds of OCD, postpartum OCD involves both obsessions and compulsions.

However, the difference in postpartum OCD is that the obsessions and compulsions are usually specifically focused on the new baby in some way.

Obsessions are thoughts, images, or feelings that are frequent and upsetting. In postpartum OCD, some common obsessions include:

It’s worth noting that most of the time, people dealing with postpartum OCD know that their thoughts don’t make sense. It’s very unlikely that someone with postpartum OCD will actually act on these thoughts.

Compulsions are actions that you take in order to deal with obsessions, even when you know rationally that the actions aren’t necessary. In postpartum OCD, some common compulsions include:

In some cases, you might experience one kind of symptom more than the other kind.

Finally, it’s important to note that these symptoms start within the first few weeks after the baby’s birth. Sometimes, they may lessen on their own over time, but they often require treatment.

Postpartum OCD is generally unique in that it includes distinct obsessions and compulsions.

However, it can also overlap to some extent with these other conditions that can stem from pregnancy and/or childbirth:

What to do if you’re experiencing postpartum OCD

If you think you might be experiencing postpartum OCD, consider the following options:

What should I look for in a therapist for postpartum OCD?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are generally considered to be the most effective kinds of therapy for most kinds of OCD.

However, you’ll want to consult your physician as well for support around choosing the best therapy for your postpartum OCD.

In all cases, you’ll want to make sure that your therapist is qualified to treat people who are dealing with postpartum OCD. This will usually involve:

Finally, as with any therapy, it’s important to make sure that your therapist is a good fit for your unique needs. Be sure to evaluate the following in your initial calls with therapists: