Post-natal OCD affects 11% of mums

Post-natal obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) could be affecting more than one in ten new mothers.

A new study indicates the previously unrecognised mental health problem may affect close to 11% of women after giving birth. This compares to between 2% and 3% of the general population that have OCD symptoms.    

The rate of post-natal OCD is similar to that of post-natal depression, which affects about 10% of women who have recently given birth.

Researchers think the two psychological conditions have a correlation.

OCD symptoms are usually centred on the child and may include worries about dirt or germs, injury from accidents and repeated monitoring for errors.

Of the cases of new mothers studied, about half of those exhibiting OCD symptoms started to get better after six months. Although some new mothers only started showing OCD symptoms at this stage. Scientists said the risk for OCD behaviour lasts as long as a year after a woman gives birth.

"It may be that certain kinds of obsessions or compulsions are adaptive and appropriate for a new parent, for example those about cleanliness and hygiene," said Dr Dana Gossett, the lead researcher from Northwestern University in Illinois, in the US.

"But when it interferes with normal day-to-day functioning and appropriate care for the baby and parent, it becomes maladaptive and pathologic."

Copyright Press Association 2013

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