What Is Post Natal OCD?

What Is Post Natal OCD?

by Dr Emma Gray - 15th January, 2015

Post Natal OCD is similar to ‘regular’ OCD. The only differences are that it occurs following the birth of a baby and that the obsessional or intrusive thoughts centre around responsibility for harm to the baby and the compulsive behaviours centre around trying to prevent that harm.

Post natal OCD can be experienced by both mothers and fathers but seems to be more common amongst mothers with it occurring in 2-4% of new mothers.

Common intrusive thoughts include thoughts of stabbing, suffocating or drowning the baby, throwing or dropping the baby, sexually abusing the baby, giving them a serious disease or making a decision that leads to a fatal outcome.

Common compulsive rituals intended to protect the baby against the anticipated harm include: excessive washing and cleaning of anything that comes into contact with the baby, avoidance of feeding the baby for fear of accidental poisoning, constantly checking the baby’s breathing, temperature and for other signs of illness, hiding sharp objects and reviewing events over and over again to check that no harm has been done to the baby.

At times the sufferer is able to step back from the intrusive thoughts and see that their fears are irrational. In the moment they occur, however, the thoughts are all consuming and the urge to engage in compulsive behaviours and rituals, impossible to resist.

Who Does Post Natal OCD Affect?
Post Natal OCD affects new parents, both mothers and fathers, but those most at risk are those who either have pre-existing OCD, in which case sufferers will notice a worsening of symptoms or a change in the core worry, and those who have had suffered from other types of anxiety problems prior to the birth of their babies.

These problems include panic attacks, social anxiety, generalised anxiety, eating disorders, agoraphobia and other types of phobia.

Low self esteem and confidence may also be a risk factor for developing post natal OCD as the tendency to underestimate one’s ability to cope will be highlighted post partum.

Why does Post Natal OCD Occur?
The main triggers for Post Natal OCD are thought to be a sharp increase in stress following the birth of a baby and an increased sense of responsibility, neither of which may have been anticipated.

Getting Help
Post natal OCD is often misdiagnosed by GPs and health visitors as post natal depression. This means sufferers are frequently offered inappropriate treatments and left feeling hopeless in the face of their symptoms.

The reality is that post natal OCD can be treated reasonably quickly, especially if caught soon, and an appropriate referral for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is made.

The British CBT & Counselling Service our Clinical Psychologists and Counselling Psychologists are skilled in working with post natal OCD and have seen dramatic improvements in a matter of weeks using the latest developments in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, so if you or someone you know is struggling with this disorder contact us now.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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