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What is Postpartum OCD?

If you're experiencing severe, pregnancy related anxiety, you might want to discuss this subtype with a doctor.

Written by Jordaine Chattaway

01 Jordaine Chattaway is a friend of Intrusive Thoughts and OCD advocate. She's had OCD since childhood.

02 Postpartum OCD, also know as Postnatal OCD, Postnatal Anxiety and Postpartum Anxiety, is more common than people think. Stigma often keeps new mothers from seeking help.

03 Experiencing anxiety or depression after giving birth does not make you a bad parent. The best thing to do for yourself and your family is seek help. Do not feel ashamed of needing support during a hectic time.

Have you ever experienced unwanted thoughts or images about bringing harm to your child? Do you find these thoughts unbearable, gut-wrenching and deplorable, and yet, you can't control them from entering your mind? Have you noticed that the more you try to get rid of them, the more often they seem to terrorize you?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there is a chance you could be suffering from a less commonly spoken about form of OCD known by many names: Postnatal OCD, Postnatal Anxiety, Postpartum OCD or Postpartum Anxiety.
More commonly referred to as Postpartum OCD, this post-pregnancy illness is an anxiety disorder that is associated with disturbing thoughts or images revolving around common OCD obsessions.

Harm obsessions and sexual obsessions are especially common in Postpartum OCD ― both of which cause the parent to distress about the baby’s safety or their ability to keep the child safe. Parents suffering from Postpartum OCD often find their intrusive thoughts or images fall into the following three categories:

  1. Unwanted violent thoughts or images (about intentionally harming the baby)
  2. Unwanted violent thoughts or images (about unintentionally harming the baby)
  3. Unwanted sexual thoughts or images (involving the baby)

The saddest part about this illness is that it affects the people least likely to ever present a real threat to their children in any way. The thoughts or images (sometimes both at once) are always unbearably distressing to the sufferer and cause them great guilt, shame, sadness and ― in some cases ― severe depression.

This is because the people who suffer from this form of OCD have been proven to be people who are extremely dedicated to living a wholesome or moral life. They are people who are distressed and disgusted by the exact images, thoughts or impulses that intrude their mental space time and time again and which target the people or things they love most.

Never experienced any form of OCD prior to having a baby? You’re not alone. This illness is so aggressive it often manifests itself in these terrible obsessions in people who have never experienced the symptoms of OCD before.

The most important step to recovery is accessing the right information. Intrusivethoughts.org has an extensive symptoms list which can help kick-start your journey to recovery. We also have an amazing support group and blog where you can access personal stories from advocates and people who have lived with OCD or people with OCD. If you are looking for anonymity, you are more than welcome to chat to Pax, our OCD chatbot (in fact, the world’s first OCD chatbot).

The most important message of all: you’re not alone. We are here for you.

About the author

Jordaine is a mental health advocate and Made of Millions advisory board member. By day, she works for a global creative agency as a senior strategist. In her free time, she blogs about fashion and champions mental health awareness and post-natal support.

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