SOCIAL MEDIA

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Coping With OCD In Pregnancy

OCD is a common, yet debilitating disorder that causes the sufferer to have obsessions (thoughts, worries, urges and doubts) and compulsions (to try and counteract the obsessions). But did you know that OCD can present in pregnancy? Here's my story...

My second pregnancy was a very anxious time. A few months before, I'd very sadly had a miscarriage. My much wanted baby who, from the moment I saw those two lines on the pregnancy test, had become a glorious part of my future (as I daydreamed of first smiles, first days at school, holidays by the sea etc) had gone. I was bereft. In the weeks that followed, I tried to make sense of this loss and with it I began to worry that I had in some way caused it. Of course, I know now that I didn't, that miscarriage is common (1-4 women experiencing it in their lifetime), but I began to over-analyse my actions. Was it something I had eaten? Had I taken a bath that was too hot? Had I been too stressed at work? The questions were endless.

A few months later I again became pregnant. As wonderful as this was, with it came fears that I would again have a miscarriage and one that I would somehow cause. Over the course of my pregnancy and indeed, into the first few months of motherhood, these fears manifested themselves into compulsions. A large part of my anxieties surrounded contamination, anxieties that I would somehow pass something harmful along to my baby. I began to wash my hands a lot. At the time I was working as a nurse and I while hygiene and cleanliness are vital, I began to take it to the next level, scrubbing my hands frequently in an attempt to make them sterile. Sometimes I would wash them again straight after because my hand had brushed past a wall or object which I feared had contaminated my hands again. My hands would be red raw, often cracking and bleeding from the frequent washing. Eating also became an issue. Firstly in terms of my fears of contamination and also because I worried that one of the ingredients, particularly if it contained herbs, would cause harm to the baby. Daily life had become difficult, simple tasks became exhausting. I knew that my actions weren't the norm but I didn't have the first idea how to stop. I felt like this was what I had to do to keep my baby alive and well.



Regretfully, I didn't seek help in my pregnancy, but I wish I had done. My OCD symptoms continued after my little boy was born where my obsessions centred again around fears of contamination (now it wasn't just my hands that were scrubbed constantly but his bottles too) but also around fears that he would accidentally come to harm. I remember constantly checking every little noise he made in case he was unwell. I also worried that something would fall from a shelf or wardrobe onto him and I would spend a lot of time checking everything was secure. Eventually, things became easier, largely due to previous Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) I had previously had for anxiety. CBT helps you to change established thought patterns and to recognise negative or unhelpful thoughts. I had been taught a word during this; 'catasprophising'- assuming the worst case scenario will occur. I realised that a lot of my thoughts were just this, anxiety of the worst happening. Each time I had an urge to wash my hands, or to check on the baby for the 50th time that evening, I reminded myself of this word and eventually I started to let things go.

OCD During Pregnancy affects 1 in 100 women and PostPartum OCD, which occurs after pregnancy is slightly more common. If you're experiencing any signs of OCD then it's important to speak to your doctor. There's no shame, it's a common condition that can happen to anyone. Rather than conducting a specific OCD test, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and can then advise on the options for OCD treatment. This includes talking therapies such as CBT or your doctor may give advice on the best medication for OCD.

I'm happy to report that I don't feel affected by OCD in the same way that I once was. I sometimes feel things bubbling away under the surface, a worry or fear that I've done something wrong or the need to check and recheck something, but most of the time I can bat these thoughts away, recognising them for what they are, without the need to carry out any compulsive behaviours. But I'll never forget just how difficult it was and so if this is you, I urge you to seek some help and guidance so that you can receive the support to effectively combat your symptoms. For help, advice and guidance visit betterhelp.com. You can and you will beat it.

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