Perinatal/Maternal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
By: Isabelle Siegel
Conversations about postpartum depression have recently become commonplace, leading many people to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of this condition. As a result, new mothers are much quicker to recognize and label their struggles and to seek help. However, the same attention has not been paid to a similar condition: Perinatal or Maternal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
What is Perinatal/Maternal OCD?
Perinatal/Maternal OCD is essentially OCD with onset during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. In general, OCD involves the presence of obsessions (“unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind”) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors or thought patterns performed to relieve anxiety caused by the obsessions).
Expecting and new mothers with Perinatal/Maternal OCD commonly experience obsessive thoughts about their infant’s safety, including intrusive thoughts about:
- Unintentionally harming the infant
- Sexually abusing the infant
- Contaminating the infant
- Making wrong or harmful parenting decisions
They may then engage in compulsive behaviors or thought patterns in order to relieve the resulting anxiety, including:
- Repetitively calling the doctor or other health professionals
- Repetitively checking on the infant
- Total avoidance of the infant
- Excessive washing of anything with which the infant might come in contact
Treatments for Perinatal OCD
Mothers experiencing Perinatal/Maternal OCD are not hopeless. As with other forms of OCD, Perinatal/Maternal OCD can be addressed with therapy and/or medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and, more specifically, Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) can be used to target obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of Perinatal or Maternal OCD, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/
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