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Mother, Composer Suffered Postpartum OCD: 'It Was Like A Private Hell'

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) - Imagine the horror of having thoughts of stabbing or suffocating your newborn.

According to a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, those thoughts trouble one in ten new mothers. It is called Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (PPOCD).

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There is a lot of shame associated with Postpartum OCD. But a mother in Denver is talking about her struggle, in fact, she's made it into music.

"String Quartet OCD" sounds frantic, dark and unsettling. It is mental illness through music and it is composer Loretta Notareschi's own story.

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"It was like a private hell," Notareschi told CBS 4's Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

It started with the birth of her daughter, Ruby, in January 2013.

The baby was healthy, but Notareschi was having intrusive thoughts.

"Scary thoughts about possibly hurting her or hurting myself," she explained, "The first one I had was 'What if I threw Ruby down the spiral staircase in our home?'"

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(credit: Loretta Notareschi)

That led to unfounded fears.

"I would start to think really scary things about knives, about ropes, about the bathtub. Anything dangerous in the house suddenly seemed to me it could be used to hurt my daughter," Nortareschi said.

She became hyper-vigilant in protecting Ruby. The new mother got help and learned she had PPOCD.

"Postpartum OCD is really a protective instinct, that all new mothers have, gone awry," said Dr. Celeste St. John-Larkin, child psychiatrist at Children's Hospital Colorado.

She says shame often keeps women silent.

St. John-Larkin is the medical director for Healthy Expectations Mental Health Perinatal Program and has a mental health support group for new mothers.

"Knowing that you're not alone is very important," she said.

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(credit: Loretta Notareschi)

The support group, therapy, medication and her music helped Notareschi recover.

Her message about mental illness is "you're not alone, you're not to blame and with help you can get better."

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You can hear Notareschi's "String Quartet OCD" on September 25, 2017.

If you or a family member are struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns that started during pregnancy or the first year after having a baby, please call or email the Healthy Expectations Perinatal Mental Health Program for support and treatment options.

Healthy Expectations Warmline:  303-864-5252


LINK: Postpartum Support International


Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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