Can pregnancy trigger OCD in new mothers?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by involuntary intrusive thoughts. When a sufferer begins to acknowledge these intrusive thoughts, then develops anxiety based on the dread that something bad will happen. The sufferer feels compelled to voluntarily perform irrational, time-consuming physical behaviors to diminish the anxiety.


Worries about the responsibilities of motherhood could trigger obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Pregnancy is a potent trigger, with around 7 % of mothers to be developing the anxiety-related disorder. Sufferers often try to keep their compulsive behaviors hidden from others, to avoid embarrassment, humiliation or to avoid being seen as strikingly odd or different from others.

Working out why some pregnant women develop it when other don't could allow researchers do screen for the condition & even prevent it in those most at risk. Pregnancy could trigger OCD in those already vulnerable to it & worsen symptoms in those already battling the disorder. Some cases are transient but others persist long after the birth of the baby.

If the OCD is not realized by an undiagnosed sufferer, they may scold themselves in frustration as to why they are thinking or acting the way they are. In OCD, the brain gets stuck on a particular thought or urge and just can't let go. People with OCD often say the symptoms feel like a case of mental hiccups that won't go away.

Professor Salkovskis said, “OCD is a result of a trauma to which we all have vulnerability but some people are more prone. We want to target at-risk sub-groups such as pregnant women. It doesn't look like it is related to hormones. It is actually to do with responsibility. We are trying to protect those people who are at risk and develop key strategies to help them. If you can predict it, then you might be able to prevent it."

If we can get to the root of the initial trigger for OCD, that will improve awareness & help to reduce the burden of this hugely disruptive condition.

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