Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Last update: 13 May, 2018

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (POCD), as the name implies, is a set of thoughts and behaviors that a woman experiences after giving birth.

As in any other Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a woman’s daily life is affected in multiple areas.

Causes of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There is no consensus regarding the causes of POCD, but some specialists think the hormonal and physical changes that take place after childbirth could favor its appearance.

Women with POCD acquire repetitive (compulsive) behaviors from irrational thoughts that cause great discomfort (obsessions).

Like many other conditions, the causes of POCD are considered to be a set of environmental, genetic and biological factors. On the other hand, certain factors are also suspected to predispose people to develop POCD.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Risk factors

  1. Family history of OCD
  2. Mood disorders: stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
  3. Traumatic or highly stressful events
  4. Difficulties at the time of delivery and lack of postpartum relief

Incidence of POCD

It is estimated that about 3% of new mothers develop Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Those who have previously been diagnosed with anxiety or depression are also prone to develop it.

In general, women who experience POCD often confuse it with postpartum depression. Therefore the disorder is often ignored and it isn’t possible to accurately quantify its frequency.

It should be noted that not all cases of POCD are the same. In some women, it can occur in a mild way, and in others it can manifest itself in a much more extreme way.


How to prevent POCD is not yet known, but undoubtedly, a healthy lifestyle and good personal care (especially mental care) will significantly help.

Once the diagnosis of POCD has been obtained from a professional, it’s important to carry out his or her treatment. This way, the treatment can have satisfactory results and achieve an early improvement.

Signs of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

All concerns that involve caring for the baby are taken to the extreme. Therefore, exaggerated behaviors of over-protection, excessive cleaning, among others, develop.

  • Insomnia
  • Lack of rest (for taking care of the baby)
  • Excessive protection. For example, the mother might carry the baby in her arms constantly for fear that anything could happen to him.
  • Rituals and repetitive behaviors, such as: checking the contents of your wallet at all times, sterilizing the bottle more times than necessary, cleaning the same place or the same object several times.
  • Accumulating things. This gives the mother a feeling of peace of mind knowing that she won’t lose her objects or that she’ll always have what she needs.
  • Perfectionism. Constant distress due to the thought that if everything isn’t done perfectly, the baby will be hurt.
  • Avoidance behaviors (to avoid harming the baby), such as not using knives or sharp objects, not using products for fear of toxins, and so on.

The presence of these signs can cause a decline in the woman’s quality of life. Her routine is impaired by the actions she takes to counteract it and her personal relationships are seriously affected.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The treatment of POCD

The support of loved ones is key when looking for solutions. It’s also very beneficial for the woman to delegate certain responsibilities to someone else. These can be small actions.

For example, if you have the help of the baby’s grandmother, the mother can nap peacefully because there will be someone responsible and able to take care of the baby.

Of course, it isn’t easy for a woman with POCD to leave her baby, so they’ll have to be patient but firm. Only then will they be able to help.

Regular help from a psychology professional can help progressively overcome POCD. Therefore, once therapy is started, it’s important to be consistent when applying the recommendations and guidelines.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.