Episode 12: Postpartum OCD

Episode 12

Postpartum OCD

In this episode of Purely OCD, Lauren and Kelley discuss Postpartum OCD (PPOCD) – that is, OCD that occurs in the period after birth. Harm OCD and Emotional Harm OCD often show up in this subtype.

Kelley brings personal experience with PPOCD to the discussion. As the discussion gets underway, Lauren warns Kelley to “Buckle up, Buttercup!” 

Important side note: Lauren and Kelley don’t avoid triggers. That’s because facing triggers is key in recovery. That’s what Exposure and Response Prevention is all about!

Obsessions in this subtype revolve around harm befalling an infant.

Of course, most parents feel concern about protecting their baby.  To some degree, this concern is adaptive. On top of this, new parents are sleep deprived and stretched thin emotionally . Exhaustion tends to ramp up anxiety. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for any new parent to have thoughts about harming one’s baby, intentionally or unintentionally.  OCD just takes this normal experience and turns the volume waaaaaaay up around these fears.

Often, people wonder what thoughts of harm might mean. They try to get certainty that the thoughts don’t mean anything or to get rid of them altogether. While we can’t get rid of thoughts or know what they mean, we can get better at accepting uncertainty.

Kelley and Lauren discuss obsessions around PPOCD, such as,

  • “What if I harm my child on purpose or inadvertently?”
  • “What if a family member or my spouse harm the child on purpose or by accident?” 

Examples of compulsions in PPOCD can look like: 

  • avoidance (of the baby)
  • reassurance seeking (from the partner)
  • mental review

Kelley and Lauren talk about the fact that combining exposures makes them more effective than either exposure alone.

Example: Change a diaper (in vivo or in real life exposure) while listening to an imaginal exposure (an anxiety-provoking narrative) about harming the child. Refrain from compulsions – any behavior aimed at getting certainty about whether they want to or will harm their child.


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Disclaimer: This information is meant to be general information not unique to any individual. Before following any guidance or advice found on this site or in the Purely OCD Podcast a visitor or listener should always consult with their own licensed healthcare practitioner. The Purely OCD Podcast and Website are not therapy or intended as a replacement for therapy. They are for educational purposes only.

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