I started this post as an email to Midwife With A Knife to help her with her talk about perinatal psychiatric issues. It got long enough that I decided to turn it into a blog post instead. I see Dinah is also working on her part of MWAK's homework and it's a good one. Here goes.
Last November I went to an excellent CME lecture on perinatal OCD. I thought this would be a nice change from the usual maternity-associated illnesses like post-partum depression and psychosis.
First of all, obessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions or compulsions that are time consuming or interfere with social or occupational functioning.
Obessions are anxiety-producing thoughts, impulses or images that are excessive and beyond the range of normal worry about real-life problems. Sufferers usually recognize that they are irrational, and often try to ignore or suppress them. The most common types of obsessions are contamination obsessions followed by obsessions about aggression or the need for exactness.
Compulsions are urges to perform repetitive behaviors or mental acts. They usually happen in response to obsessions and are aimed at reducing distress or preventing some unpleasant event. The most common types of compulsions are checking rituals followed by cleaning or washing. There can also be mental compulsions (repeating words or numbers, counting or reciting prayers.)
The prevalence of OCD is about 1 in 50 people (2.3% of adults). The gender ratio is 1:1 male/female. The prevalence of perinatal OCD is 0.2 to 3.7%. Eighteen percent of new cases occur during the postpartum and 6% during pregnancy. Most women with pre-existing OCD have no change in symptoms with pregnancy, but one-third may have worsening or a change in symptom presentation.
The types of obsessions in perinatal OCD are different than in non-postpartum OCD. Postpartum obsessions are more likely to involve contamination fears or fears of violence (eg. intrusive thoughts to poke the baby's "soft spot", putting the baby in the microwave) than non-postpartum OCD. Patterns of compulsions are also different---postpartum OCD is more likely to involve checking, washing and cleaning rituals. Some OCD patients have been known to call their daycare multiple times a day to neutralize their obsessions.
About half of women with post-partum depression have co-existing OCD, but the OCD is less likely to be diagnosed because of patient concealment and embarrassment. And yes, fathers can get it too.
Treatment usually involves cognitive-behavioral therapy sometimes combined with medication. For the Ob-Gyn crowd, this would be the time to refer. Dinah is writing a good post about meds in the peripartum, so I'll leave that to her.
Hope this helps.