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Postpartum Depression

Postpartum OCD

Postpartum OCD is real and treatable.

Pregnancy and OCD

There are several mental health concerns that are related to pregnancy, the most known being postpartum depression. While this is a very serious condition, there are other equally serious concerns that are related to a postpartum experience. It is now known that men can also suffer from postpartum depression, challenging the idea it is just related to female hormones.

But there is a postpartum experience that affects both men and women that can also be devastating – Postpartum OCD.

A common postpartum experience for women is to fear that they might somehow harm their baby. Common thoughts, images, or impulses might be:

I might drop my child.

I might throw my child down the stairs.

What if I were to stab my child while using a knife in the kitchen?

What if I molest my child when I change their diapers?

When these thoughts occur, it is common for women to start to take precautions to try to prevent them from doing the things in their thoughts, images, or impulses. They may not let their children in any rooms with knives, refuse to be near a staircase while holding their child, or make others carry the child all together to be sure that no harm is done to them.

This is not to be confused with postpartum psychosis, a very serious disorder that involves an actual break with reality and a real potential for harm. Individuals with postpartum OCD have fears of thoughts, images, and impulses involving “what if..” types of statements and not a desire to actually harm anyone. In fact, individuals with OCD do not harm people – they just fear that they might do something harmful. So, the stories that have been sensationalized in the media are 1, very rare, and 2, not OCD related at all because the thoughts in postpartum psychosis are not related to “what if..” thoughts. Instead, there are often hallucinations or delusions provoking someone to do something harmful.

Postpartum OCD can also affect men. It is common for men to become very concerned about how clean things are around the baby, going so far as to not let anyone else hold the child, or into the home, or even spending excessive hours cleaning everything that the child might touch.

What needs to be recognized is that the birth of a child can be a joyous experience, but it is also a huge stressor. There are many women who hear from people how wonderful it must be to have a baby, even though they secretly find it to be a horrifying experience – one that for sure does not meet their pre-birth expectations.

Recognize that postpartum OCD, for both men and women, is common and treatable. Seek the advice of a trained professional to assist you through this experience.