With new motherhood comes a variety of changes. Of course, most parents are told to expect the sleepless nights and the constant feedings. What you may not be told, however, is how much you’ll worry about the health of your little one. This seems to be especially true of new mothers.
It makes sense. Here’s this brand new, tiny, baby that seems so helpless and so susceptible to danger from even the most insignificant things. They can get sick at the drop of the hat and everything is a guessing game because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. It’s no wonder that studies report that around 11% of new mothers exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors after the birth of their child.
When Should You Be Concerned?
What is OCD? Simply put, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors. As an example, there is nothing wrong with double checking to make sure you strapped the baby into the car seat. However, there may be a concern if you must check to see that the baby is in the car seat two or three times before leaving, every time you drive somewhere.
Other examples of possible OCD symptoms from new mothers could include:
- Washing your baby after every feeding
- Constantly sterilizing all the baby’s equipment and toys
- Being terrified of anyone else holding your baby
- Washing all of the bedclothes on a daily basis
- Washing your hands at set periods of time to ensure they stay clean
Looking at these examples, it is easy to see how these “obsessions” can cross the line from being reasonable to unreasonable. Giving in to the compulsions that come from your anxieties can impact your relationships, sleeping patterns, and eating habits, just to name a few. Once they begin to negatively affect your life like this, it’s time to seek help.
What are the Causes of OCD?
Many things can cause or increase your risk of developing OCD, such as family history and biological changes like the ones most women experience with childbirth. However, one of the leading risk factors for developing obsessive-compulsive disorder is stressful life changes.
It makes sense, then, that having a baby can be such a huge trigger for new mothers. Many mothers experience a lot of the same worries:
- Fear that they won’t be good parents
- Pressure to prove themselves to others
- A need for control in an uncertain situation
- Fear that their child will fall ill
- Fear of hurting their child
It’s normal to have these concerns. However, it’s important that new mothers keep these fears from taking over their lives. The best way to do this is to not keep these feelings and thoughts to yourself. However, this is where obsessive-compulsive disorder often becomes a difficult catch-22.
Many new mothers may worry about the way others will view them if they admit their anxieties. Even worse, the thought of talking to their doctor about their fears may increase the apprehension they already have. If they worry, for example, that they have to prove they are a good parent, then wouldn’t admitting this type of problem prove that they aren’t?
As with most disorders, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward fixing it. Disclosing your concerns can make you more open to suggestions from loved ones who have an outsider’s view of your compulsions. It can also help you recognize when you’re falling into them. And, in the event that you’re unable to control your compulsions on your own, admitting your fears can be the first step toward seeking support from a professional who can help you learn to cope with your concerns and anxieties.
If you or someone you know has become negatively impacted by the worries and pressures of new motherhood, don’t feel like you have to go through this alone. Call us at 561-496-1094 or contact us today, and get yourself back on the path to enjoying life and your precious bundle of joy.