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Postpartum OCD (PPOCD)

Postpartum OCD (PPOCD)

Perhaps not as widely recognized, however, an obsession disorder revolving around a new birth mothers baby’s safety is very much a growing issue especially amongst developed Western cultures.  The current estimates put the disorder as high as 3 percent of all new mothers will develop the disorder. This disorder can be difficult not just to treat but to properly diagnose.
It is often misdiagnosed as postpartum depression as the constant obseessive behavior can result in the mother becoming depressed as they lose there ability to fight the urges to constantly protect the baby. This heightened state of awareness can be exhausting for the new mother.

Symptoms include:

  • excessively washing or sterilizing baby bottles
  • excessively washing baby repeatedly
  • excessively washing babies clothes
  • isolating the baby to keep family members or others from “contaminating” the baby
  • constantly checking on the baby
  • experiencing persistent and terrifying fears of harming the baby

There is a grave danger to the baby esecially if the mother excessively washes the baby. An infant can quickly develop major health issues and dehydration from bathing. It is this symptom more than anyother that tends to tip off the underlying condition and acts as a huge red flag for family members, however, because most hospitals and doctors stress to new mothers not to bathe their babies, it is the least common symptom.

Everyone from family members to friends expects a new mother to be joyful as they fuss over their new infant. it is because of this that many of the symptoms ar overlooked. Friendships and other relationships are often shunned during these months though as the mother spends more and more time protecting the baby from the outside world based on insufficient fears of contamination.


Although a specific niche within the obsessive compulsive disorder spectrum it is still treated in much the same way. Postpartum OCD is often treated with medications  in the serotonin reuptake inhibitors family and is usually coupled with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).   A warning should be emphasized for mothers who breast feed their babies, as the effect of such medications have not been studied and should thus be avoided or the baby should be fed formula. In a somewhat ironic twist, this very fear is a great barrier to treatment itself. The desire to protect the baby from harmful chemical and side effects prevents the mother from getting the treatment she so needs and as a result places the infant in harms way. It is because of this that cognitive behavior therapy is often recommended without medication, at least initially. This often helps the mother become more of a willing participant and thus dramatically increase success rate.



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