Postnatal OCD: Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Postnatal OCD: Signs, Causes and Treatment Options

Postnatal OCD is something that many new mothers struggle with and it can be an incredibly isolating experience. This type of OCD is a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and has both physical and psychological symptoms. It’s important to understand the condition to help those who suffer from it. In this blog post, we will cover everything you need to know about Postnatal OCD including its causes, symptoms, treatments, and more. We’ll also discuss how you can support someone dealing with the condition. By understanding Postnatal OCD better, we can work together to remove the stigma around this condition and help those who are struggling with it find peace and healing.

What is Postnatal OCD?

What is Postnatal OCD?

Postnatal OCD is a type of OCD that can develop after the birth of a baby. It is characterized by intrusive and distressing thoughts about the health and safety of the baby. Women with postnatal OCD may compulsively check on the baby or clean and sterilize everything in the house. They may also have difficulty bonding with the baby.

Postnatal OCD can manifest itself in several different ways but is characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts, images, or urges related to the baby. These can be extremely distressing and lead to compulsions or behaviors which are carried out in an attempt to relieve the anxiety. Common compulsions include excessive checking on the baby, repeatedly washing or sterilizing items that come into contact with the baby, and seeking reassurance from others about their health and wellbeing.

If you think you may be suffering from postnatal OCD, it is important to seek help from your GP or health visitor as soon as possible. With treatment, most women make a full recovery and can enjoy their new role as a mother.

Symptoms of Postnatal OCD

Several symptoms are associated with postnatal OCD. These can include:

Intrusive and Unwanted Thoughts

One of the most common signs of postnatal OCD is intrusive and unwanted thoughts. These may include fears of harm coming to the baby, concerns about contamination, or feeling of guilt or shame.

Obsessive Behaviours

Postnatal OCD can cause a person to engage in repetitive behaviors such as excessive cleaning, checking, and re-checking, or avoiding certain activities or scenarios.

Compulsive Rituals

People with postnatal OCD may also find themselves engaging in rituals such as counting, tapping, or touching objects for reassurance. These rituals can become so ingrained that it becomes difficult for the individual to break free from them.

A Sense of Anxiety & Fear

The anxiety associated with postnatal OCD can be overwhelming and debilitating for many people. This anxiety can lead to feelings of fear and panic which can further exacerbate symptoms.

Disturbed Sleep

Postnatal OCD can often lead to disturbed sleep as the individual may find it difficult to switch off from their intrusive thoughts and worries. This lack of quality sleep can impact mood, energy levels, and concentration throughout the day.

Causes of Postnatal OCD

Causes of Postnatal OCD

It is estimated that up to 1 in 200 women will experience postnatal OCD. While the exact cause of this condition is not known, there are several possible contributing factors.

Some of the causes of Postnatal OCD are:


One of the most likely causes of postnatal OCD is a genetic predisposition. There is evidence to suggest that there may be a genetic component in the development of this condition

Hormonal Changes

Hormone levels change significantly during and after pregnancy, and these changes can trigger or worsen symptoms of OCD.

Stress and Anxiety

Women who experience high levels of stress and anxiety during and after pregnancy are more likely to develop postnatal OCD. Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or financial problems, can also increase the risk of developing this condition.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is common during and after pregnancy, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety, both of which are linked to postnatal OCD. Also, lack of sleep can affect the body’s ability to regulate hormones, which can exacerbate symptoms.

Depression and Other Mental Health Issues

Women who have a history of depression or other mental health issues are more likely to experience postnatal OCD. Additionally, women with a history of substance abuse or addiction are at an increased risk of developing this condition. Many of the symptoms of postnatal OCD are also symptomatic of depression and other mental health issues.

Treatment for Postnatal OCD

Treating postnatal OCD typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication.


 Psychotherapy Techniques

Many types of therapy can help treat postnatal OCD. some of these are:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective form of treatment for postnatal OCD. CBT focuses on changing counterproductive beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to OCD. Therapists help clients learn how to identify, question, and correct obsessive thoughts. They also work with clients to develop healthy coping strategies they can use when symptoms flare up.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Some of the same skills used in CBT can also be used to treat postnatal OCD with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is based on the idea that change can happen through acceptance and balance. The goal of DBT is to help clients accept their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors while still striving for change.


Medication can also be used to help manage the symptoms of postnatal OCD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed for this condition, as they are effective in reducing symptoms. Some other medications that may be used include tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines. It’s important to discuss all your options with your doctor before starting any medication.

The medications also need to be combined with psychotherapy for optimal results.

Support Groups

There are also many support groups available for women suffering from postnatal OCD. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment where members can share their experiences, receive emotional support, and learn coping skills. Joining a postnatal OCD support group can be an invaluable resource for managing symptoms.

Some of the support groups are run by mental health professionals, while others are facilitated by other women who have experienced postnatal OCD. Either way, they can provide a great source of comfort and support.

Lifestyle Changes

Some of the lifestyle changes that may help to reduce symptoms of postnatal OCD include:

  • Regular exercise: One of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety is by getting regular exercise. Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, as it helps to reduce cortisol levels (the hormone associated with stress).
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga can help to reduce stress levels and improve concentration. Practicing mindfulness can also help identify negative thought patterns that may trigger OCD symptoms.
  • Good sleep hygiene: Getting enough quality sleep is essential for reducing stress and improving overall well-being. Developing good sleep habits, such as avoiding caffeine late at night and creating a calming nighttime routine, can help make sure you get the rest you need
  • Supportive relationships: Building supportive relationships with family members, friends, and mental health professionals can be beneficial in managing postnatal OCD. Having a solid support system can help to provide you with emotional, practical, and financial resources when needed.

If you think you may have postnatal OCD, it’s important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional. With treatment and lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage the symptoms of this condition.

Can You Prevent Postnatal OCD?

Can You Prevent Postnatal OCD?

There are many ways that you can work to prevent postnatal OCD from developing.

  • First, it is important to be aware of the risk factors for this condition. If you have a history of anxiety or OCD, you are more likely to develop postnatal OCD. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment for these conditions during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have anxiety or OCD, you must talk to your doctor about your risks.
  • Second, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of postnatal OCD. If you notice any changes in your thoughts or behavior that are causing you distress, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Third, it is important to create a support system for yourself during pregnancy and after childbirth. This support system can include your partner, family members, friends, or a support group for new parents. Having people to talk to who understand what you are going through can be very helpful.
  • Fourth, it is important to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and exercising regularly can help reduce stress levels and promote overall wellness. Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can also help manage stress levels.

By being aware of the risk factors and signs and symptoms of postnatal OCD, creating a support system, and taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally, you can help reduce your risk of developing this condition.


Postnatal OCD is a serious mental health condition that can affect new mothers months and years after giving birth. This type of OCD typically manifests as intrusive thoughts, worries, and anxieties about harming oneself or the baby. By understanding this disorder and recognizing its signs and symptoms, parents can be better equipped to get treatment for themselves or their loved ones who may be struggling with postnatal OCD. With proper support from family members, friends, doctors, therapists, and other professionals—as well as lifestyle adjustments like eating healthy foods and exercising regularly—it is possible to manage postnatal OCD to have a happier postpartum experience.

For more information and guidance, please contact OCDMantra. OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. If you have any queries regarding OCD treatmentERP therapy experienced therapists at OCDMantra can help: Book a trial OD therapy session.