Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a form of anxiety disorder. It is often talked about in daily conversation. We hear people being described as being 'a bit OCD', in reality the disorder is far more complex and serious than someone merely wanting things to be clean and tidy.
Perinatal OCD is when you experience OCD during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth.
You may also hear the disorder being referred to as postpartum OCD.
Until recently OCD in pregnancy and/or after having a baby had not been researched in much detail. However, this has changed in recent years. It's now said that OCD may well be more common at this time than other times in life.
Perinatal OCD often (but not always) revolved around significant fear of harm coming to your baby, with the worries often focused on accidentally or deliberately harming your baby or the baby becoming ill. It is important to note that this is completely normal and very common to occasionally experience these worries. However, some people find themselves so distressed that they will take measures to manage their anxiety or prevent their fears coming true in the form of obsessive and/or compulsive behaviours. These are the two primary behavioural patterns of OCD:
Below are some examples of common obsessions and compulsions:
We know that talking about how you are feeling can often be very difficult, however, there is help out there. You do not have to feel like this. We hear that women often worry that they will be judged or seen to be 'not coping' - this is a common misconception. Health professionals are aware of how prevalent OCD can be during the perinatal period, and you are able to support you and your family.
There will be a range of treatment options available to you:
Self help - offers you the option of exploring how you might be feeling through workbooks which you can download or print off. Reading well books are available from most libraries, they promote the benefits of reading for health and wellbeing.
Talking therapy is a NICE recognised therapy delivered by a therapist either face to face, over the telephone or in groups. The therapy is available wherever you live via the NHS and is completely free. Women in the perinatal period (antenatal and up to 1 year post-birth) will be prioritised for talking therapy treatment. There are many different types of therapy available including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has proved very effective. You should receive your treatment within 6 weeks of the initial referral (NICE 2014).
Medication - You will need to seek the advice of your GP. For mild to moderate anxiety, talking therapy is the first choice of treatment and medication won't usually be considered until you have undertaken some therapy. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding there is still medication that you can take, but you need to discuss this with your GP. Please see further advice. It is not generally recommended that you take holistic medication without speaking to your GP in the first instance.
Useful services & resources:
Content adapted from MIND