In the past, it was always estimated that about 3% of postpartum women would get postpartum OCD. That number never made any sense to me, given how many of you with whom I speak about intrusive thoughts and other significant obsessive and compulsive symptoms. Plus, I had postpartum OCD, so I’m probably a little biased.
A new study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine finds the number is much higher — one in ten new moms may have postpartum OCD. Researchers at Northwestern University watched 461 new mothers for OCD symptoms and found that 11% of moms had postpartum OCD symptoms — intrusive thoughts and compulsive actions like checking and rechecking on their babies or washing and rewashing bottles — at two weeks postpartum. Six months later, half of those who’d had the symptoms at two weeks still had them, and 5% had developed new symptoms of postpartum OCD. (This compares to an OCD prevalence in the general population of 3%.) The authors’ conclusion? If moms show postpartum OCD signs early, it is highly likely those symptoms will persist. Time to do a better job watching out for postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A different study published in the journal Pediatrics took a look at postpartum anxiety symptoms, noting that moms may be screened for postpartum depression but are not usually screened specifically for anxiety. The researchers from Penn State screened more than 1,000 moms using both the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. They found 17% had anxiety and 6% had depression symptoms in the first few weeks postpartum, and that anxiety remained more common than depression even at 6 months postpartum. Their conclusion is, in part, that postpartum anxiety may be more common than PPD. With this particular study, I’m more interested in what happens down the line than what happens in the first two weeks. Was there some way to identify, among those who presented with anxiety symptoms early, which moms were more likely to have persistent anxiety and require treatment?