Parenting is a wonderful, beautiful thing when done well. Unfortunately, it can also come with some serious stress — keeping your child safe, keeping them happy, making sure everything is baby-proofed, attempting to shield them from the awful things in the world…it’s enough to drive a mom or dad proverbially crazy. According to a new study from obstetricians at Northwestern University, new mothers may be exhibiting signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder after giving birth.
OB-GYN Emily Miller and her team followed 461 women after they gave birth. Two weeks after delivery, 11% said they experienced obsessions and compulsions similar to mild to moderate obsessive-compulsive disorder. To put that statistic in perspective, the general public has an OCD rate of approximately 2 to 3%. Half the women continued to show these symptoms for six months thereafter, and that wasn’t the only problem:
Nearly three quarters of the women with OCD also showed signs of postpartum depression. As with depression, therapy would probably help new moms cope with OCD, according to Miller. “If OCD symptoms are mild and resolve by six weeks’ postpartum, they may be normal,” Miller says. “But if they interfere with a patient’s daily functioning and persist, she should talk to her doctor.”
It’s really frightening to think that so many women may be experiencing obsessive-compulsive symptoms without realizing it, but at least studies like this are revealing the challenges that new parents face. The more information we know on the topics, the better equipped soon-to-be mothers and fathers can be to prepare in the event they endure them.