Intrusive Thoughts

Mom & Mind – Postpartum OCD. Why am I having these thoughts?!?!

Why this podcast?
Yep, you’ve guessed it, Mom & Mind is another podcast from the Parents on Demand Network. Mom & Mind is hosted by Psychologist and Perinatal Mental Health Specialist, Dr Kat and is –

“Dedicated to understanding the mental health of pregnant, birthing, loss and postpartum families.”

Why this episode?
I love that the Mom & Mind homepage underlines that “Postpartum Depression is only part of the story”. This episode focuses on Postpartum OCD and I would encourage all expecting parents to take thirty minutes to listen to it.

Who should listen to this episode?
All parents-to-be and those close to them.

The episode
The guest on this episode is Bethany Warren, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who specialises in mental health around infertility, pregnancy and birth.

What is Postpartum OCD? 
Postpartum OCD can actually begin during pregnancy and women tend to experience unwanted, intrusive and repetitive thoughts. Bethany characterises these thoughts as being on a loop.

The thoughts can revolve around something, or even the mother themselves, being contaminated or dirty; accidental harm coming to the baby or the baby being harmed deliberately.

If a mother starts behaving in a certain way, developing specific rituals to try and keep these things from happening, that’s where the OCD comes in.

Bethany gives the example of a mother who fears she might cut her baby while chopping vegetables. This mother might pray each time she is around a knife or sharp object or may even lock anything sharp away.

It’s so incredibly important to emphasise that these are not wanted thoughts.

They are not things the mother wants or chooses to think.

They come from nowhere and thoughts DO NOT equal intention.

Who should I talk to?
Postpartum OCD is fairly common and not something to be ashamed of. If you are experiencing these kinds of scary thoughts it is very important that you reach out to someone who knows how to help you.

You can ask your midwife or doctor if they are experienced with Postpartum Mood Disorders and, if they are not, they should be able to recommend someone who is.

I love that Bethany suggests beginning this conversation by talking about anxiety or depression if you are not comfortable launching straight into discussing intrusive thoughts. That way you can gauge if your care provider is the right person to talk further with or if you need to find someone more specialised.

What should you know?
Bethany says that she wants women to know two things about Postpartum Mood Disorders –

1. They are treatable

2. They are temporary

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is very effective for Postpartum OCD and may be combined with breathing and relaxation exercises to manage anxiety as well as, potentially, medication.

Your therapist may encourage you to record your thoughts in a journal so that any trends or specific triggers can be spotted.

Most therapists will give you various tools to use, including talking back to the thought.

Bethany again uses the example of the thought of cutting your baby. Some ways to talk back to that thought could be –

– Where’s the evidence that I might be capable of that?

– Am I otherwise a good mother to my baby?

– Do I love my baby?

– Have I ever wanted to harm my baby?

In this way, you can begin to take some of the power out of that intrusive thought.

Postpartum OCD IS NOT Postpartum Psychosis
Someone suffering from Postpartum Psychosis believes their thoughts of harming their baby to be true and may act on them. It is extremely rare but is a true emergency and treatment must be sought immediately.

A mother with Postpartum OCD who has thoughts of harming her baby has no intention of acting on them. Quite the opposite, these thoughts cause her great distress and anxiety.

This is an important distinction.

To wrap up
This episode explores Postpartum OCD in a lot more detail than I have here. I hope you’ll go and listen to it and I would love to hear your feedback.

Until next time!

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By emilywills

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.

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