Understanding Postnatal OCD

Postnatal OCD is a lesser-known, yet significant, maternal mental health condition that affects some new mums. It is characterised by intrusive, distressing, and unwanted thoughts, often referred to as obsessions, and sometimes accompanied by repetitive behaviours or mental rituals, known as compulsions. 

These obsessions and compulsions can significantly impact your well-being and interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis.

Symptoms of Postnatal OCD

  1. Intrusive Thoughts: Parents with postnatal OCD often experience distressing thoughts or mental images that are intrusive and unwanted. These thoughts can revolve around harming the baby, fears of contamination, or a sense of doubt and uncertainty about their abilities as a parent.
  2. Compulsive Behaviours: Individuals with postnatal OCD often engage in repetitive behaviours or mental rituals as a response to their intrusive thoughts. These behaviours are performed in an attempt to reduce anxiety or prevent the feared event from occurring. Common compulsions may include excessive cleaning, checking, or arranging items in a particular order.
  3. Intense Anxiety: Postnatal OCD can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and distress. Parents may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of their obsessions and the urgent need to perform compulsions. The anxiety associated with postnatal OCD can be debilitating and may interfere with bonding, daily routines, and overall well-being.
  4. Feelings of Guilt and Shame: Mums experiencing postnatal OCD often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame about their intrusive thoughts. These feelings can create a cycle of secrecy, isolation, and fear of judgement, making it challenging for individuals to seek help or share their struggles with others.
  5. Impaired Functioning: When postnatal OCD symptoms become severe, they can significantly impact a parent's ability to carry out daily activities or care for their baby. The time-consuming nature of compulsions and the constant preoccupation with intrusive thoughts can lead to exhaustion, impaired concentration, and a sense of being trapped in distressing patterns of behaviour.

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Signs of Postnatal OCD to Look Out For

  • Repetitive and ritualistic behaviours, such as excessive cleaning, organising, or checking on your baby repeatedly.
  • Excessive worry and fear of unintentionally harming your baby.
  • Avoidance of certain activities or places due to fears of contamination or harm.
  • Distress caused by unwanted and intrusive thoughts about you baby's safety or well-being.
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy as a parent.
  • Increased anxiety, irritability, or sadness.

Seeking Support for Postnatal OCD

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of postnatal OCD, it's crucial to seek help from your GP, health visitor, or mental health professional. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Postnatal OCD is a treatable condition, and with the right support and interventions, parents can find relief and regain control over their lives. 

For more information on where to seek help for Postnatal OCD, have a read of our maternal mental health resources guide.

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