Perinatal OCD is OCD that you experience during pregnancy or after giving birth (postnatal OCD). It is a type of anxiety disorder that is made up of two parts:

  • Obsessions are unwanted thoughts, images, urges or worries that constantly appear in your mind, no matter how much you try and ignore them. They can cause feelings of anxiety.
  • Compulsions are repetitive activities you do to reduce the anxiety that has been caused by the obsession.


If you experience perinatal or postnatal OCD, you are more likely to have obsessions and compulsions that relate to how you feel about being a parent and your baby. Common obsessions and compulsions include:


  • Intrusive thoughts about hurting your baby
  • Disturbing thoughts about sexually abusing your child
  • Fear of giving your child a serious disease or making the wrong decision about their medical treatment


  • Excessively washing clothes, toys or bottles
  • Avoiding changing nappies out of fear that you might inappropriately touch your baby
  • Keeping your baby away from other people
  • Constantly checking on the baby
  • Repeatedly asking people around you for reassurance that your baby hasn’t been hurt or abused

Of course these thoughts can be very upsetting and frightening, but it’s important to remember that just because you have an intrusive thought doesn’t mean that you’ll act on it.

How can I help myself?

  • Talking to someone you trust – being able to talk about your experiences may help you feel better as OCD can often cause you to isolate due to feelings of embarrassment or fears of being misunderstood. It can also help if you let them know how to respond to your obsessions and compulsions and support you.
  • Manage your stress – OCD can become worse if you are stressed out, try to identify triggers so that you can anticipate stressful events and manage them better
  • Look after yourself – get some more sleep, choose a healthier diet and do some exercise!


The treatment usually offered for OCD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is a talking therapy that focuses on your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a type of CBT recommended for OCD. It works by exposing you to situations that would usually cause anxiety, and encouraging you to tolerate the anxiety instead of acting out your compulsions. This teaches you that the feelings soon go away and the compulsions aren’t necessary. 

You may also be offered medication with CBT to help you manage your symptoms of anxiety. This is something that you should discuss with your doctor as you may need to try a few types to find what works best for you, especially if you are breastfeeding.