OCD: New Mothers Have Increased Risk

obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

A new report claims new mothers are five times more likely to develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); one in 10 demonstrate symptoms. Stressors over motherhood are primarily to blame.

To test this theory, researchers recruited 461 women during their delivery hospitalization at Northwestern Memorial. They were asked to comply with screening tests for anxiety, depression, and OCD at two weeks and six month periods after going home. The entire original study pool completed the surveys at two weeks, and 329 completed them at six months. The women’s symptoms were self-reported, and they did not receive a clinical diagnosis by a psychologist.

Excessive worries and responsibilities caused new mothers to be more prone to the conditions, as nearly 11 percent were affected with OCD. OCD outpaced post-natal depression in occurrence, yet 70 percent of OCD sufferers had a comorbidity of depression.

Symptoms can manifest in expressed irrational fears of accidentally harming the infant, excessive concern over germs and hygiene, hyper vigilance, and obsessive checking and rechecking for potential errors.

According to lead researcher Dr. Dana Gossett from Northwestern University in Illinois:

“It may be that certain kinds of obsessions or compulsions are adaptive and appropriate for a new parent, for example those about cleanliness and hygiene. But when it interferes with normal day-to-day functioning and appropriate care for the baby and parent, it becomes maladaptive and pathologic.”

OCD is characterized by intrusive repeated thoughts that create anxiety. Sufferers will often feel irrationally compelled to act out a series of repetitive actions in order to satisfy an onset of stressors. Some people perform compulsive rituals because they inexplicably feel they have to, others act compulsively so as to mitigate the anxiety that stems from particular obsessive thoughts.

Three percent of adults in general are afflicted with obsessive compulsive disorder, often by the age of 30. However the condition can manifest in childhood and adolescence.

The study will be published the March/April issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.

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