New Mom Alert: Lauren’s honest story is not for the faint of heart!
You already know about PPD, but what about Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? Postpartum OCD has unique and often misunderstood symptoms. Guest Blogger Lauren Hale, of www.unexpectedblessing.wordpress.com is a self-described survivor of motherhood who has conquered postpartum OCD….twice! She joined me for a remarkably courageous exploration of this little known postpartum mood disorder.
Postpartum OCD gets a fraction of the attention of postpartum depression. Here are Lauren’s powerful (and sometimes shocking) words about postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder:
It doesn’t get as much attention as postpartum depression, because only about 3% to 5% of mothers who are experiencing a postpartum mood disorder actually end up with this one. It is actually one of the closest cousins of the mood disorders to psychosis, which makes it very frightening for those who do experience it.
As far as postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, the primary symptom involves intrusive thoughts. Those are when you have fleeting thoughts that may or may not involve you actually harming your child, or involving harm befalling your child.
For me, I had them with both of my children. The first time around, it had to do with knives, and the second time around, it had to do with pillows. I don’t like to be very graphic when I know that new mothers are listening.
It was very difficult to have these thoughts crossing my mind, even as I would be sitting there nursing my child, and otherwise feeling perfectly happy. All of a sudden, this thought would go racing through my mind. I was like, “No! Why did I just think that,” which is another classic symptom of OCD, and another way to differentiate OCD from psychosis.
When you have OCD, you’re immediately horrified and repulsed, as a mother, that you could even think something like that about your child. This is your child, this little person you are responsible for; your maternal instinct should not be letting you have these thoughts. If it goes on from there, it can sometimes become psychosis, if you let it go too far.
Mommy-Muse Note: This is a very important distinction between OCD and psychosis. In postpartum psychosis, when intrusive thoughts come fleeting by, the mother DOES NOT have that immediate sense of, “No, I can’t do that; I won’t do that, why did I even have that thought?!” With postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, you DO recognize that it is not an appropriate thought, and that what is important is to take care of your child.
When you have OCD, you may also exhibit behaviors that would limit the possibility of following through. In other words, the first time around, I refused to use sharp knives when my husband wasn’t home. If I had to use them, my daughter would be in her room, with the door closed, so I would actually have to make a conscious effort if, for some reason, I suddenly felt like following through.
Some moms, if they live in an apartment complex, stay off the balcony. They don’t want to go on the balcony because that’s where their obsessive-compulsive thoughts may lead them. Or, there are some mothers I have talked to, through peer support, who have had thoughts of, “Hey, that tractor trailer looks awfully nice,” and the baby is in the car, “Oh no! Why am I thinking this?” I’m guilty of that, too, and my husband knows that, as well.
It’s very hard, when you have OCD, to open up to your partner about the thoughts you are having because even more so than postpartum depression, OCD is very stigmatized. Here you are having very negative thoughts and being very anti-maternal when you’re supposed to be very maternal, very glowing, and very radiant, in the rocking chair nursing your child. You don’t want to do any of those things.
Lauren is tremendously brave to share her story, and is dedicated to providing peer support outreach. She is well aware that many moms who need immediate help are terribly scared to come forward with any of the symptoms of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, worried they will be classified as having postpartum psychosis.
So let’s shed some light on this postpartum mood disorder and take away the stigma by understanding this distinction: A mother with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder can have these thoughts and images, but they know that these are not appropriate behavior and thoughts. They know that there are steps they need to take to keep their baby safe. Postpartum OCD, like all the postpartum mood disorders, is completely treatable, and help is available now!