Pregnancy & OCD: More in Common Than You Think

HandwashingA study from Yale University has just shown that pregnancy can exacerbate (or even cause) the symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

According to Reuters:

"Using medical records and interviews with 126 women treated at the Yale OCD Clinic, the researchers found that of the 78 women who had ever been pregnant, 24 (32 percent) had their first OCD symptoms during or soon after pregnancy."

And for those women who already had diagnosed OCD? One-third of them saw a return (or worsening) of their symptoms.

Is it just me, or does it seem like there is some new "pregnancy can cause this horrible thing" study every week?


In this case, what's interesting is that the symptoms of OCD -- high anxiety, having certain tasks that need to be repeated in a certain order, or uncontrolled thoughts, fears, and images -- can be caused by hormone changes, which is why these same women who are more prone to pregnancy OCD might also see similar changes related to their menstrual cycle.

According to Reuters:

 "Forray's team also found that women whose pre-pregnancy OCD typically got worse in the premenstrual period were at greater risk of exacerbation during pregnancy. That finding, the researchers say, supports the notion that there is a ‘hormone-related' subtype of OCD that affects some women."

"‘These women may have a differential sensitivity to reproductive hormones, and, as such, normal reproductive events are triggers for the onset or exacerbation of OCD,' Forray told Reuters Health in an email."

So what do you do if this is you?

Sit down with your doctor early in your pregnancy (or even before) if you have OCD and discuss how to manage the symptoms and if a new course is needed.

And if you're pregnant and you start to notice that thoughts about cleanliness and order and health become more than normal pregnancy worries and start interfering with your daily life, then mention that to your doctor as soon as you can.


Image via kokopinto/Flickr

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