Perinatal OCD

Sep 12, 2021

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the Perinatal Experience.


Let’s start with a general definition of what OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is defined as.

OCD is characterized by unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that may lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions). Compulsions are often utilized to aid in decreasing the obsessive thoughts. These obsessions and compulsions typically interfere with daily life and cause distress for the person experience.


Common obsessions, as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association, are:

  1. Health or contamination concerns
  2. Disturbing sexual thoughts or images
  3. Fear of speaking inappropriately out of turn (often insults)
  4. Concerns regarding symmetry or order
  5. Intrusive thoughts of sounds, images
  6. Fear of losing important items


Common Compulsions, as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association, are:

  1. Excessive cleaning or washing of self and items
  2. Ordering or rearranging
  3. Repeatedly checking
  4. Seeking reassurance
  5. Counting


When we look at OCD in the perinatal period (pregnancy to postpartum), it first and foremost means that symptoms, begin in the perinatal period OR an increase in severity of symptoms if OCD is already present.


Common concerns that are highlighted during Perinatal OCD are:

  1. Fear of being left alone with infant
  2. Fear of infant becoming ill or something happening to them
  3. Hypervigilance in protecting infant
  4. Continual checking on infant


Common risk factors, as outlined by Postpartum International are,

A personal or family history of anxiety or OCD.


One important key feature to keep in mind is that those who experience Perinatal OCD recognize these thoughts as disturbing and disruptive. They are aware that there obsessions and compulsions are excessive and difficult to control/manage.


Statistically speaking 3-5% of moms are diagnosed with Perinatal OCD


If you are experiencing any of these thoughts or symptoms, it is really important to speak with your health care provider and connect with supports in your community. There are ways to address and manage these symptoms and experiences.

When we talk about perinatal OCD it is important to keep in mind: OCD is not study as much as other perinatal mood disorders, however, there is a shift in studies trying to understand this better. One thing that we do know is there is a vulnerability during the perinatal period that leads to increased risk of experiencing a perinatal mood disorder. Again, support is available and out there. Always talk with your health care provider and utilize online reputable resources or resources within your own community.






American Psychiatric Association

Postpartum International


Brandes, M., Soares, C. N., & Cohen, L. S. (2004). Postpartum onset obsessive-compulsive disorder: diagnosis and management. Archives of Women’s Mental Health7(2), 99-110.


Forray, A., Focseneanu, M., Pittman, B., McDougle, C. J., & Epperson, C. N. (2010). Onset and exacerbation of obsessive-compulsive disorder in pregnancy and the postpartum period. The Journal of clinical psychiatry71(8), 1061–1068.

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