According to researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is common among new mothers.
In the general population, just two to three percent of people experience OCD symptoms. New moms, however, may find themselves excessively worrying about germs and crib safety, and may catch themselves obsessively checking to see if their baby is still breathing.
Study senior author Dr. Dana Gossett noted:
"It may be that certain kinds of obsessions and compulsions are adaptive and appropriate for a new parent, for example those about cleanliness and hygiene."
When the obsessions and compulsions interfere with normal daily functioning and proper care for both baby and parent, that's when it becomes a problem. An example would be staying up during the night to keep watch over your baby while he or she sleeps.
Previous studies have suggested that women experience OCD symptoms during the postpartum period, however these studies were based on subjects' recall of past events. In contract, this new study followed moms throughout the first six months after a baby was born, and asked participants to respond to survey questions.
More than 460 new mothers participated in the study. Around half of the subjects who reported symptoms at two weeks had improved by six months, while other women's OCD symptoms sparked at six months.
Because stress is a well-known trigger for OCD, the stress of becoming a new mom may trigger a pre-existing condition in some women. The researchers also believe that postpartum hormone levels could play a role as well.
The results of the study are to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.