Study: Prevalence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in New Moms Skyrockets

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April 12, 2021

There’s really no other time in life than those first few weeks and months after you have a child that’s quite as special as this one. Everything is new for everyone, and you have a brand new person at home to care for at all hours of the night. While it’s a euphoric and exhilarating time, it’s also in many ways an exhausting time because there really is no set time for sleep, eating or anything else when you’re that new to the world. As such, it can be draining for parents despite what they’re feeling. Whatever the reason, some thoughts new parents have can become troubling, even to the point where the situation can arise to the level of a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It was always thought that a small percentage of new mothers in particular found themselves dealing with OCD, but as it turns out based on the results of a new study out of Canada, that prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorder may be much higher than previously thought. SoCal Empowered provides OCD treatment in Orange County, and we’ve helped a lot of people learn to manage this difficult condition. Below we’re going to delve into the study and what it could mean for you.

About the OCD Study In New Mothers

Researchers at the University of British Columbia collaborated with teams from the University of Victoria, the Women’s Health Research Institute and King’s College London to collect data from women between the years of 2014 and 2017. The data were gleaned from 580 women who speak English and who live in British Columbia.

The subjects began by answering a series of three online questionnaires, the first of which was administered during their third trimester of pregnancy and the last 38 weeks after giving birth. They also went through a diagnostic interview to determine if OCD was present. What they found was as follows:

  • 8 percent of the women reported symptoms that met the definitional standard of OCD during pregnancy.
  • Approximately 9 percent of the subjects reported symptoms of OCD 9 weeks after giving birth.
  • This represented the high point of prevalence, and the percentage gradually declined from there until the end of the 38 weeks.
  • Nearly 17 percent of the subjects reported symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder at some point during the 38 weeks after birth.

Why is this significant? It matters because these percentages are much higher than previous assumptions and estimates. To date, most experts have estimated that just under 3 percent of women encountered symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder during pregnancy and 7 percent postpartum. As such, these findings suggest that OCD in expecting and new mothers is more than twice as common as previously thought. Those who want to read the entire study can do so here.

About Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

One thing that should be noted before digging into the details of OCD is that a few years ago, the definitional aspect of the disorder changed to include new behaviors that were not previously included. That’s led to more diagnoses of OCD, but that’s just one aspect of this entire development. The other is that the researchers involved in the study also noted that they asked what they felt were the right questions and that more women – and perhaps people – would come forward with honest answers to these questions if they were ever asked.

As far as what obsessive-compulsive disorder actually is, defines it as:

[A] disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.

With regards to this study, the researchers seemed to focus quite a bit on the thoughts mothers were having. Specifically, these thoughts often revolved around the fear of someone or something harming their fetus or their newborn child to the point where the repetition became troubling to the subjects. What this may mean for the future is that pregnant women may need to become more aware of this problem so that if it grows to the point where it becomes difficult to live daily life, they could seek help as soon as possible.

The Overall Prevalence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

We should also point out that serving as a resource for OCD treatment in Orange County has provided us with some perspective as to the scope of this mental health challenge. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, or the ADAA, the following statistics relate to OCD across the United States:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects approximately 2.2 million adults.
  • That represents 1 percent of the adult population in the United States.
  • The prevalence of OCD is relatively equal between men and women.
  • The average age of OCD onset is 19.
  • 25 percent of cases arise by the age of 14.
  • One-third of adults dealing with OCD first experienced symptoms as children.

How SoCal Empowered Can Help

Fortunately, despite the difficulties presented by obsessive-compulsive disorder, those dealing with this problem can overcome it. While everyone is different and as a result every form of treatment is different, different types of therapies and perhaps even medications can be helpful for some people. If you find yourself fighting this type of a problem, the first thing you should do is find out if it’s a situation that requires professional help.

SoCal Empowered is not just a facility that provides OCD treatment in Orange County, but rather we are a resource that helps people (a) determine if they need help and (b) find out how much help they’ll get from their insurance companies before committing to getting help. If you need answers, we’ll give them to you, so contact us today and we’ll help you decide if additional steps are necessary and if so, how much coverage you can expect from your insurance carrier.

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