New mothers may be more prone to obessive-compulsive disorder
Being a new mother may make you more prone to having obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
A new study set to be published in the March/April issue of The Journal of Reproductive Medicine shows that women who have recently given birth have higher rates of OCD compared to the rest of the population.
OCD is an anxiety disorder which causes the person have unwanted or repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions) and/or behaviors. The person might go through repetitive behaviors in order to get rid of the unwanted thoughts.
"A compulsion is a response to those obsessive thoughts, a ritualistic behavior that temporary allays the anxiety but can't rationally prevent the obsession from occurring," Dr. Emily Miller, lead study author and a clinical fellow in maternal fetal medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a press release.
The National Institutes of Health estimate that 1 percent of the U.S. population has OCD at any time during the year. Most people who have the condition display symptoms before they are 30.
The researchers looked at 461 women who delivered their children at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The women were surveyed two weeks after giving birth, and then 329 of them were surveyed at six months. The women self-reported their symptoms and were not diagnosed by a psychologist.
Eleven percent of the mothers had significant OCD symptoms. In general, 2 to 3 percent of the population exhibit the same characteristics.
Seventy percent of the women who had OCD symptoms also had depression.
"There is some debate as to whether postpartum depression is simply a major depressive episode that happens after birth or its own disease with its own features," Miller said. "Our study supports the idea that it may be its own disease with more of the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms than would be typical for a major depressive episode."
The good news is that researchers believe that the feelings, which include fears of injuring the baby and concerns over germs, could be because of hormonal changes and are usually temporary. Half of the women improved their symptoms by the six month mark, but new women -- about 5.4 percent of the mothers -- developed OCD symptoms since the initial survey at two-weeks.
"If those symptoms are developing much later after delivery, they are less likely to be hormonal or adaptive," study senior author Dr. Dana Gossett, chief and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in a press release said.
It's when it persists and starts to influence the mom's behavior that it may signify something more serious.
"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," Gossett said. "But when it interferes with normal day-to-day functioning and appropriate care for the baby and parent, it becomes maladaptive and pathologic."
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