I was a wreck when I first brought my eldest daughter home from the hospital — now 10 years ago. I had never really cared for a child before, and here I was, responsible for this teeny tiny fragile thing 24-7. All that kept flashing through my mind were the passages from baby books that I read, spelling out all of the potential disasters that could harm my baby. Danger lurked everywhere from the bathtub to the crib, and it was up to me and my sleep-and-nutrient-deprived body to protect her.
My experience is not unlike that of many new moms. So is it any wonder that a new study has found that new mothers are far more likely than folks in the general population to report symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) after childbirth?
The study, which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, found that 11 percent of women are likely to experience mild to moderate symptoms of OCD after childbirth, compared with the 2-3 percent of the general population affected by the disorder. Reported symptoms included intrusive thoughts — mostly fears about the baby's well being — and compulsive behaviors, such as frequent handwashing and repeatedly checking the baby to make sure she's breathing. About 70 percent of new moms also reported symptoms of depression. Researchers checked in with the new moms at two weeks post partum and again at six months.
The good news is that more than half of the new mom participants felt their symptoms had faded away by the six-month mark. But the other almost-half still had feelings of OCD even after six months, and 5 percent of moms reported that symptoms were worse than their symptoms at the two-week check-up.
The important message for new moms is that you are not alone. Researchers don't know for certain why new moms are more prone to OCD, but they do have options to treat it — via therapy, education or even medication if that becomes necessary. Seek help in caring for yourself so that you can do your best at taking care of your new baby.
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