Postpartum OCD

by Dr. Emily Anderson

It is a common experience for new mothers to experience intrusive thoughts and anxiety, as well as to engage in protective behaviors related to their babies. In fact, some anxiety is adaptive with regard to protecting the baby from potential harm. This anxiety typically is temporary and does not interfere with daily functioning or a mother’s ability to care for the baby. Some mothers, however, experience more significant symptoms associated with postpartum OCD, which are impairing and may interfere with daily functioning. Such OCD symptoms sometimes occur immediately after the birth of a baby and at times do not appear until later in the year after a woman gives birth. Postpartum OCD is present in about 2 to 3% of all mothers. Rates of postpartum OCD are higher among women who had an OCD diagnosis prior to giving birth.


Postpartum OCD can involve a myriad of obsessions and compulsions, but most commonly involves contamination, scrupulosity, aggressive thoughts, and other unacceptable thoughts. Intrusive thoughts most typically are centered around the baby and involve intentional harming the baby or accidentally allowing harm to come to the baby. Some examples include:

  • If I do not wash my hands after I eat, I will contaminate my baby.
  • If I don’t pray correctly, my baby will be harmed.
  • When I changed my baby’s diaper, did I touch her inappropriately?
  • What if I impulsively try to drown or hurt my baby?


These thoughts are very distressing and commonly lead to excessive ritualizing and avoidance behaviors. Some examples include:

  • Excessive cleaning and washing rituals to prevent contamination spreading to the baby
  • Excessive praying to ensure the baby’s safety
  • Excessive checking to make sure the baby is ok
  • Asking family members for reassurance that the baby is ok


Treatment for Postpartum OCD:

If untreated, women who experience postpartum OCD may have difficulty bonding with their babies due to avoidance and ritualizing. Untreated symptoms furthermore may impact relationships with other family members, who may be frustrated by involvement in rituals, such as providing reassurance and taking on extra responsibilities.

The treatment for postpartum OCD is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), the gold standard in OCD treatment. Treatment with medication may also be beneficial as an adjunct to ERP.



DISCLAIMER: The content found here is intended to serve as educational content and is not intended to replace therapy. For treatment-related questions, please be sure to work with your local provider or contact a local clinician.

Videos: Postpartum OCD

Choose a title below to view related OCD videos

Eric Storch, PhD, discusses postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This form of OCD onsets following the birth of a child. It affects about 6% of first-time mothers.

Eric Storch, PhD, shares his advice for mothers with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He explains that this disorder is normal, there is nothing wrong with a mother who has this disorder, and reassures the mother that she is the last person to ever engage in the behaviors. He also shares his advice on ways to treat and cope with the disorder.

Eric Storch, PhD, discusses the causes of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There is not one single reason that points to why a mother has this disorder. Postpartum could be the triggering event, likely linked to hormonal changes.

Eric Storch, PhD, discusses the difference between postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and psychosis. One of the major differences is the degree of stress experienced by the mother who is affected. Mothers who have postpartum OCD engage in protective behaviors. Mothers with postpartum psychosis have a different perception of reality. Mothers who have postpartum psychosis are viewing the world in a way that's not reflective of how the world actually is.

Eric Storch, PhD, discusses postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and hormones. Hormone fluctuations after birth are significant. Thankfully, there is help out there. If mothers engage in treatment, then this issue can be put behind them with the help of coping skills.

Eric Storch, PhD, discusses fathers and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It has been well documented that there is an increase of intrusive thoughts among fathers after their spouses give birth. These intrusive thoughts are usually related to the father's concerns of the baby's safety.

Eric Storch, PhD, shares his advice for those with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The first step is to recognize that there is nothing wrong with you, you are not a bad parent, and that something can be done to help you. The International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF) is a wonderful resource where you can find treatment providers in your area. Connecting with individuals who know how to treat this will help you significantly.

Eric Storch, PhD, shares his advice for family members of those who have postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is incredibly important as a family member to be loving and supportive. It is encouraged to make sure the sufferer gets connected with good mental health resources who have experience with postpartum OCD. He also recommends to think about how some of your accomodating behaviors could have a detrimental affect on the sufferer.

What should you expect with OCD when you are expecting? Postpartum OCD (PP-OCD) can cause an exacerbation of existing OCD symptoms or the onset of OCD following the birth of a child. Dr. Eric Storch, renown child OCD expert will be discussing the essentials to understanding symptoms, warning signs, and treatment for postpartum OCD. Postpartum OCD can affect both fathers and mothers and is estimated to impact 6% of first-time mothers. Through this webinar it is our goal that partners and loved ones can learn how to best provide support, help and guidance to their loved ones. It is our goal that individuals impacted by PP-OCD will find hope and help through this event.

Learn tips on when and how to speak to your children about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.