A new study finds that 11% of new mothers experience a temporary case of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) during the months after giving birth.
Among the general population, only 2-3% of people experience OCD symptoms, researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said.
New moms may find themselves obsessively checking that their new baby is breathing, or worrying about germs, crib safety, or whether or not they are sterilizing bottles correctly, the researchers added.
"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," said study senior author Dr. Dana Gossett. But when it interferes with normal day-to-day functioning and proper care for both baby and parent, such as staying up during the night to keep watch over your baby, that is when it becomes a problem, she added.
Six-month survey period
Previous studies have suggested that women experience OCD symptoms during the postpartum period, but these studies were based on subjects' recall of past events, LiveScience reports. However, the new study followed moms throughout the first six months after a baby was born, asking partipants to respond to survey questions.
More than 460 new moms participated in the study. About half of the subjects who reported symptoms at two weeks improved by six months, while other women's OCD symptoms sparked at six months.
Stress is a well-known trigger to OCD, so the stress of being a new mom could trigger a preexisting condition in some women, the researchers noted. Postpartum hormone levels could play a role as well.
The study will be published an upcoming issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
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