Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in new mothers is more common than previously thought, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia.
Researchers say that new moms worry a lot about things that may happen to their newborns—and that puts them at an increased risk for developing OCD.
The study found that 8% of women reported symptoms that meet the criteria of OCD at some point during their pregnancy, while 17% of new mothers experienced similar symptoms in the 38-week period after delivery.
Previous research estimated that only 2.2% of women experienced OCD symptoms during pregnancy and after giving birth.
In some cases, OCD can resolve naturally. If left untreated, however, it can interfere with parenting and daily life.
The study's lead author Dr. Nichole Fairbrother, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at UBC, says that medical professionals can help new moms by asking the right questions during appointments.
"The traditional questions are framed in a way that doesn't really help women connect to the intrusive thoughts they've had about their baby," said Fairbrother in a news release. "If they don't recognize their experience in the questions that are asked, they may be underreporting."
Think about your own appointments, mama. After giving birth, it's likely that you were asked if you ever had thoughts about hurting your baby or yourself. But there are other ways that OCD can manifest in new moms. For instance, if you had trouble falling asleep at night because you couldn't stop worrying about your baby's swaddle (Is it too tight? Too loose? Is it breathable? Could it come undone?) then you might have been displaying symptoms of OCD.
Researchers say that postpartum OCD is more common than realized and that medical professionals have a responsibility to identify when women are struggling and help them seek treatment.
Mama, if you're having troubling thoughts that are keeping you from enjoying your baby or your daily routines, know that you're not alone. There are effective treatments for postpartum OCD. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
If you're having thoughts about harming yourself or others, please contact the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Text HOME to 741741 (in the US and Canada) to connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 crisis support via text message. Visit www.crisistextline.org to learn more about international options.