According to new research, new mothers are far more likely than others to report mild-to-moderate symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after childbirth. The study, published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, found that 11 percent of women reported significant obsessive-compulsive symptoms at two weeks and six months after delivery, compared to the 2 to 3 percent of individuals in the general population diagnosed with OCD.
This, the first large-scale study of post-partum OCD, found that affected mothers reported classic signs of the disease – intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and fears and rituals related to the baby. Though the survey used self-reported data from 461 moms (329 of which provided information six-months after childbirth), none were clinically diagnosed with OCD. In more than half of the mothers, symptoms of OCD went away after six months.
Researchers posit that being obsessive and compulsive when caring for a newborn may actually be an appropriate psychological development, saying that problems only develop when the symptoms start interfering with the mother’s daily life.
About 70 percent of the women who had OCD symptoms also suffered from depression, supporting the idea that postpartum depression is its own disease, as the anxiety and obsessive symptoms are not typical for a major depressive episode.