Beyond Postpartum Depression (Postpartum Anxiety and OCD)

When I was pregnant, I read it in all the books, heard my doctors speech about it- and just thought

"I'm fine, that won't happen to me"

Everyone talks about postpartum depression, even celebrities get it (thanks for your honesty, Brook Shields). I recall my cousin's friend talking about it when I was visiting for her baby shower- it sounded terrible, but the friend did get help and was able to recover. So I was on the lookout for depression, even though I was convinced it wouldn't happen to me.

Soon after baby was delivered I started worrying, a lot. And when we got home,  I worried even more. I couldn't stand the idea of sharp objects in the same room as the baby because I was convinced se would get hurt. I didn't want to take her near our balcony because I thought she would fall off. Then something even worse happened- I thought that since I was worrying so much and could even visualize these things happening, I started thinking that maybe I was a mentally ill person who would hurt their own baby. I mentally tortured myself thinking how much I loved my baby and how could I possibly be thinking these things. It wasn't getting any better and I felt like my brain was constantly battling itself. I was sure I would need to be checked into a mental institution, I cried thinking I would be taken away from my baby. I wasn't depressed, that wasn't it- this wasn't what the books and doctors described. On a long shot, I decided to google  my symptoms and see what came up- and I found this checklist:

You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:
Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.

You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. 

Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby.

You are worried. Really worried.  All. The. Time.  Am I doing this right?  Will my husband come home from his trip?  Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you it doesn’t help.
You may be having disturbing thoughts.  Thoughts that you’ve never had before.  Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were.  They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away.  These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”

You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries.  You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.

You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door?  Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?

You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea.  You might even have panic attacks.

You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless.  On edge.

You can’t eat.  You have no appetite.

You’re having trouble sleeping.  You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.

You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.

You know something is wrong.  You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.

You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.

You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you.  Or that your baby will be taken away.

I quickly scheduled an appointment with a LCSW and she completely agreed with my self diagnosis of postpartum anxiety and OCD, and admitted that her sister struggled with the same thing. She said that I could get medication if I wanted but she felt it could be treated with a few simple things- 1) accept that the thoughts are caused by hormones, 2) realize that I would never do any of those things to my baby and know that she is competely safe with me, 3) perform mindf thinking exercises, 4) get as much sleep as possible, 5) make sure to eat protein (and generally eat healthy), 6) get exercise. She said sleep was the most important thing.

These things have made SUCH a difference. I also started attending a postpartum support group at my hospital. The group there inspired me to write this post. I haven't shared this with many people but I feel that maybe my experience will help someone else recognize what is going on and get the help they need. Hormones are CRAZY and it's not your fault if you have any postpartum disorder, there are lots of resources and support out there!

Here are some quotes/descriptions from other blogger moms who have had Postpartum OCD and/or Anxiety:

"Because she didn't feel depressed, however, Kavulla didn't know what was happening. "I wanted to put a label on what I was feeling and I couldn't, which only added to my frustration," she recalls. Finally, after talking to the pediatrician during a well-baby visit, she realized she was suffering from postpartum anxiety, a cousin to postpartum depression that affects about 10 percent of new moms, according to Postpartum Support International. With postpartum anxiety, a mom may have constant worries about the baby's health and development, her ability to be a good parent, and how she's going to balance work and home or care for multiple children. She may become restless and moody, or experience physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, or insomnia."


"It’s hard to think of anything more awful than one’s brain thinking thoughts that the owner of that brain does NOT WANT. Ugly, awful thoughts. But that’s what happens, isn’t it?  All those “what if” thoughts that keep popping into your consciousness, freezing you in your tracks and simultaneously breaking your heart."


“I thought that having the thoughts meant that I was capable of doing the things I thought about (in other words, if I thought about my kids drowning in the tub, I thought it meant that I WOULD drown them). I avoided getting help for months because I was afraid that “they” (my doctor, my husband, etc.) would take my daughter away if they knew what I was thinking. If I had known these sorts of thoughts were common, I would’ve been able to get help much sooner, but as a first time mother I had never heard of such a thing. Thank you for talking about this, so other moms don’t have to suffer the way we did.”

"What if my son never loves me? What if I don’t know how to be a mom? What if I never stop crying? What if I harm him by ———? (fill in the blank with the many terrifying ways I wondered about hurting my son which I won’t list here so that I don’t make you start thinking the same damn things) What if he doesn’t wake up? What if my husband doesn’t come home from his trip? What if I can’t get my baby to eat? What if I’m not who I thought I was? What if I stay this way forever? This was me during postpartum anxiety and OCD."
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Originally Posted: 4/11/14


  1. That sounds really hard to go through! I'm so glad the lcsw was able to help.

    1. It's sort of surreal because sometimes I feel fine. Glad spring is here as I feel sunshine is good for my mental health!



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