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Fog and Nature

Perinatal Mental Health

What is the perinatal period?


Currently pregnant or postpartum (within 12 months of childbirth).

Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (PPOCD):


OCD is characterized by intrusive, unwanted, and repetitive thoughts resulting in physical or mental behaviors. Many women during the perinatal period (pregnancy to 12 months after childbirth) experience the onset of OCD whether they are entirely new symptoms or a re-occurrence of OCD after a period of remission. Women who have never been diagnosed with OCD can develop these symptoms after childbirth. Research has shown that women are susceptible to OCD during this period due to changes in hormone levels that influence brain chemical activity, and psychological factors such as a heightened sense of responsibility and increased perception of threat to the baby. Many to-be and new mothers experience anxious thoughts as they adjust to new circumstances. For many new mothers, the thoughts go away on their own over time, with some reassurance, or additional sleep. When these thoughts don’t recede or begin to impact daily functioning, OCD can be a consideration. This can be treated using the gold standard treatment, Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) designed specifically for OCD.

Common Symptoms of Perinatal OCD:

• Intrusive thoughts, images, and urges (obsessions) which are persistent, repetitive thoughts, and mental images related to the baby. The obsessions are upsetting and may not be something an individual has experienced before. Some obsessions may be related to the fear that the physical health of the baby may be in jeopardy, that the mom could harm the baby, that she may engage in sexual behaviors towards the baby, and so on.

• Repetitive acts and behaviors (compulsions), may include things like checking and rechecking the baby for signs of breathing or injury, washing hands to avoid germs that harm the baby, or mental behaviors such as repeating phrases about keeping your baby safe, “I will not harm my baby”

• Fear of being alone with the infant

• Seeking repeated reassurance regarding the infant's health and wellbeing

• Thoughts about harm coming to your baby caused by yourself, others, environment, chemicals, and more

• Thoughts can be unsettling and disturbing. Women with perinatal OCD are very unlikely to act on their thoughts

Perinatal Anxiety (PPA):


You may be experiencing PPA if you have extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling.

Perinatal Depression (PPD):


You may be experiencing PPD if you have feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness, and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or yourself. 

Why seek treatment?


Anxiety, mood disorders, and OCD in women during pregnancy and the postpartum period are often under-recognized and undertreated and can have a significant impact on the health of the mother, infant, family, and parent-child relationship.

CBT and ERP:


CBT is an extensively researched and effective treatment for perinatal depression as it helps individuals identify and respond in helpful ways to key thoughts and beliefs, build skills, and is action-oriented to support perinatal clients’ needs. ERP is the gold standard for perinatal OCD and anxiety. To-be mothers and new mothers will engage in exposure exercises, and eliminate safety behaviors, compulsions, and avoidance behaviors.

If you are interested in our services or would like more information, please book a 15-minute complimentary phone consult after reading through our FAQs.

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