Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common mental health problem that can begin or get worse during pregnancy and in early parenthood.
As explained above, it is ordinary to worry more around the time of having a baby but for some parents and expectant parents these normal worries can trigger or worsen symptoms of OCD which can interfere with life. The main symptoms of OCD are:
These are unwanted thoughts, images or urges or doubts. They might be a thought or a picture in your mind and often feature harm occurring for example:
- Having intrusive worries that your baby may be harmed by contamination from germs
- Having unwanted distressing images of violent or sexual nature
- Having unwanted intrusive ideas that you might harm your baby in some way
- Having repeated doubts that you have locked the doors
These are the things you do to reduce your anxiety or prevent what you fear from happening. They might include:
- Rituals – e.g., washing, cleaning, or sterilising repetitively and excessively. This can take up so much time that it stops you doing other things you need to do.
- Checking – e.g., repeatedly checking your baby throughout the night to ensure he/she is breathing. (some checking is normal)
- Seeking reassurance – repeatedly asking others to tell you that everything is alright. (some reassurance seeking is normal)
- Correcting obsessional thoughts by counting, praying, or saying a special word over and over again. This may feel as though it prevents bad things from happening. It can also be a way of trying to get rid of unpleasant thoughts or pictures in your mind.
- Avoidance of feared situations or activities is common. People with OCD often avoid things that may trigger obsessions or compulsions. If you have perinatal OCD, you may avoid nappy changing or bath time. You may not attend parent and baby groups and some parents avoid spending time alone with their baby.
Anxiety and other emotions
- You may feel anxious, fearful, guilty, disgusted, or depressed.
- You feel better if you carry out your compulsive behaviour. This does not help for long and can impact on your usual routine and enjoyment of life
- Perinatal OCD can also be associated with low or depressed mood.
Perinatal OCD is a very treatable condition.
If you think you have OCD and are not already having treatment please speak to your GP, health visitor or midwife as well as self-referring for talking therapy using one of the following links:
There are a range of talking therapies on offer, once you have referred into the service you will be supported by the clinicians to think about the best way forwards for you.