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Managing OCD During Pregnancy:
6 Mental Wellness Tips

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Managing OCD during pregnancy requires understanding how symptoms may alter and finding the right balance between treatment and maternal health. Pregnancy is a time of significant change, both physically and emotionally. For women with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this period can present unique challenges. 

The Unique Challenges of OCD During Pregnancy

OCD during pregnancy isn’t just about managing one’s own mental health; it’s also about ensuring the well-being of the unborn child. The hormonal changes, increased stress, and the anticipation of motherhood can all exacerbate OCD symptoms. Understanding these unique challenges is the first step towards effective management.

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by unwanted, recurring thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These symptoms can be particularly distressing during pregnancy, a time when a woman’s body and life are undergoing significant changes.

Symptoms of Perinatal OCD

Pregnancy can trigger new OCD symptoms or worsen existing ones. Common obsessions may revolve around the health and safety of the baby, while compulsions might include excessive checking behaviors. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for seeking appropriate help.

How OCD Differs from Normal Pregnancy Concerns

It’s normal for expectant mothers to worry about their baby’s health and their ability to parent. However, OCD thoughts and behaviors are more intense, frequent, and disruptive. Understanding this difference helps in distinguishing OCD from typical pregnancy anxieties.

Additionally, individuals who suffer from OCD may recognize that some of their thoughts are irrational, disproportionate to reality (over exaggerated) or based in fear of things that are highly unlikely. 

ocd during pregnancy obsessive compulsive disorder during pregnancy

How To Cope with Obsessive compulsive disorder during pregnancy

Managing OCD during pregnancy involves a combination of strategies. Here are some things therapists may suggest for individuals struggling with perinatal OCD:

  1. Individual Therapy using ERP or CBT. Both ERP and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help clients who are aware that they are experiencing OCD, however may not be helpful if the individual is unaware of their OCD symptoms, irrational thoughts and fears.
  2. Stress-reduction techniques are often reviewed with individuals who experience OCD. This may include Progressive muscle relaxation, self-talk skills, coping with panic-like symptoms and, sometimes, even bringing in their partner for additional support
  3. In some cases, individuals see a prescriber for medication that will help them, while still keeping the baby safe.
  4.  Support groups and counseling can also provide much-needed emotional support and practical advice.

  5. Lifestyle Changes:
    Simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference. This includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep.

  6. Home remedies like relaxation techniques and mindfulness can also be beneficial.

It’s about finding what works best for you and your baby.

Medication and Pregnancy:
Balancing Risks & Benefits

OCD can take a toll on an expectant mother’s emotional well-being. It’s important to address these challenges to ensure a healthy pregnancy experience. Managing OCD effectively is important for the health of both mother and baby.

 

The decision to use medication for OCD during pregnancy is complex. It involves weighing the benefits of symptom relief against potential risks This decision should be made in consultation with healthcare providers that are trained and knowledgable about OCD as well as perinatal medical needs. There are many women who maintain a medication regiment throughout pregnancy without harm to the baby. Consulting your OBGYN and/or psychiatrist is a great starting place. 

Strengthening the Mother-Baby Bond Despite OCD

Despite the challenges of OCD, it’s possible to build a strong bond with your unborn baby. Focusing on the positive aspects of pregnancy and seeking support can help strengthen this bond.

Individual & Group Therapy for Perinatal OCD

Early intervention for OCD may lead to better outcomes for mom and baby, therefore reaching out when you first suspect that the symptoms are more than just worries is key! There are various types of mental health professionals who can help with OCD during pregnancy, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. Choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

In additional to individual therapy for OCD, there is great value that many find in group therapy. Hearing from other women who have managed OCD during pregnancy can be incredibly reassuring. These stories provide real-life insights and practical tips. Their tips can be a source of comfort and guidance for expectant mothers facing similar challenges.

Our providers refer women to various groups, but by far the most positive feedback we’ve heard has been from services here: RWJ: Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Conclusion

Despite the challenges, it’s possible to embrace motherhood with OCD.  Understanding how to manage symptoms during different life stages, including pregnancy will give you the most confidence and progress on yoru mental health journey. Getting the right help, using resources from the community and getting educated about perinatal and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder will lead you to the balance needed for maintaining mental health.

Looking for individual therapy for OCD during pregnancy, or postpartum mental health?