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Postpartum OCD – Yes, OCD

Postpartum OCD is the most misunderstood of the perinatal disorders.A s many as 3-5 percent of new mothers will experience these symptoms. This is my experience being one of the 3-5 percent.

The morning after I had my baby boy, the on-call OB who delivered my baby came in to check up on me. She just started practicing at the renowned Beverly Hills clinic under my OB who’s a nationally known figure in women's health and co-founder of the clinic I’ve been going to for 10 years.

He was out of the country and all of his and her own patients decided to go into labor on the same weekend. She was exhausted. 

As she checked under my hood, she told me that my OB got back in town that morning and was already on the news.

“You know, talking about the woman who threw her baby out the window at California Hospital.”

I could’ve gotten Postpartum OCD without the image, but it certainly didn’t help. It’s called implantation. After childbirth, a woman is in a hypnotic state and her subconscious is wide open, therefore she’s open to suggestion and thought implantation.

This is a very real thing. That’s why I’m piping up about it.

I felt like I’d been hit in the gut. My subconscious was wide open to suggestion after 36 hours of labor and 10 months off of my mood stabilizer. I’d been through the worst physical trauma of my life and there was now a tiny life asleep right next to me for whose life I was entirely responsible.

The fear and visions crept in immediately. I’m going throw my baby out a window.

I waddled over to the hospital window and stared at the cement three stories below. I was relieved the window in my room didn’t open. I told no one what I was thinking.

Then I found out that the woman actually threw him off an outdoor parking garage. The fear and visions expanded beyond windows.

I found myself terrified once we got home from the hospital. The visions were unrelenting. I duct taped all the windows in our townhouse shut. I duct taped our balcony door shut.

My husband was frightened. My therapist was on speed dial. The fear followed me to the car so I wouldn’t drive with the baby without a passenger. The visions wouldn't stop – they were uncontrollable.

I didn’t want to hurt my baby; I was scared it would be a reflex that I couldn’t control.

My therapist came to my house. We did hypnosis. It helped a little. Kicking and screaming, I went back on lithium three weeks into breastfeeding. I had to stop immediately and my breasts hurt like hell. My normal dosage of lithium didn't even scrape the surface and it now made me sick. Eventually, I had to change meds completely.

My mom had to come into town to take care of the baby and me. Then my sister. I was not OK for a long time.

It took three months for me to get control of the images and fear. Almost five months later, I still have them occasionally, but they go away about as quickly as they come in. It's normal for women to have these images — it's rarely talked about and is called postpartum OCD.

Postpartum depression gets a lot of buzz, but Postpartum OCD? I didn’t even know what it was and most women don’t talk about it because of fear and stigma. PPOCD is more common than I ever knew.

I had to confront the OB; I didn’t want to, but I had to so she wouldn’t do this to another woman.

After all, the clinic’s mission statement is: dedicated to caring for the specialized needs of women from early womanhood through motherhood and beyond. We deem the doctor-patient relationship an important one, and strive to foster the trust each patient has in her physician as a counselor and advocate.

I most certainly didn’t feel like my doctor was my advocate. Quite the opposite actually. I obsessed about the imaginary conversation I’d have with her. You don’t have to be crazy to know how unproductive it is having conversations with people who aren't in the room.

I can't live with resentment in my heart. I made an appointment with her.

I prayed about what to say before I went in — I prayed to be kind and not come from a place of anger.

She came in the room and gave me a huge hug.

"How have you been?"

"Good."

Really Courtney?

Ugh. A wave of fear hit me and I dove in.

“Actually it's been really hard. I haven’t been good. I don’t know if you remember, but the morning after delivery you told me about the woman who..."

She remembered the morning clearly. Thank God. At first she didn't see the problem. It was idle chit-chat. Then I watched it sink in.

She sat me down. Tears welled up in her eyes.

"Tell me everything."

We talked for 45 minutes. She apologized a zillion times. She asked if there was anything she could do for me — anything at all.

“Please be sensitive to your patients with mental illness.”

We hugged for a long time. She thanked me for my courage and for helping her be a better doctor.

I’ve become her patient. I’m no longer seeing her celebrity boss. Her reaction elicited trust and confidence in me. She went beyond a doctor; she became a human. She took the time to admit her wrong and amend it.

This was one of the first times I’ve advocated for my own mental health. I’m now living a new chapter of this story. I’m a mother. I’m stable. And I have a phenomenal OB who will pay closer attention to her patients with mental illness.

Mission statements mean nothing if we don’t live them.

 

Click here to learn more about PPOCD.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cathy Flynn January 23, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I am so glad that she took your comments to heart. So often doctors act as if they are infallible. Her humaness will make her a much better doctor. On another note, I'm so glad you didn't throw your baby out the window. I recently had a 9-day stay in the hospital and contemplated throwing myself out the window. I'm sure those windows are sealed shut for just that reason.
COURTNEY RUNDELL January 31, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Awww, yeah - 9-days... I can't even imagine! 3 was enough for me. Yeah, all's well that ends well, eh?
Traci Arzillo February 16, 2012 at 04:15 AM
I appreciate your honesty about this. I remember having some terrifying, unrelenting thoughts about leaving my baby in the middle of a busy street. The post-partum period is a very strange and often difficult time. It's not easy to articulate the effects of the hormonal roller coaster so many women experience in the weeks after they give birth. You have done such a beautiful job telling your story with eloquence and vigor.
COURTNEY RUNDELL February 17, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Traci, thank you so much for your comment and honesty. I'm so sorry you had the unrelenting thoughts - there's just no way to understand how horrifying they are until you experience it yourself. I'm glad you got through it OK and I'm so glad my post could be of service to you. xoxo
Jen M. April 16, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Dear Courtney, thanks so much for having the courage to write this passage.l am currently in my third month of postpartum OCD and postpartum depression. I told no one of the thoughts/images I has having for a long time of possibly hurting my baby. It is so frightening. I'm seeing a psychiatrist and therapist now and have since told them about the thoughts, which has helped. But I'm not out of the woods yet. I am hoping that these thoughts and images will all end one day. It is so hard to deal with them, especially around the time of PMS. It seems to peak around that time. Take care.
COURTNEY RUNDELL April 16, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Oh Jen, thank you for posting and I'm so sorry you're going through it. It was so awful, but I can give you some hope. I haven't had any recurring scary thoughts in months. My baby is 7.5 months old now and when a scary thought comes in, it goes back out and doesn't hang out too long. Thank God. I'm so glad you're taking care of yourself - it was so hard to tell someone else what was happening in my head. I hope they pass soon. I think they will. xoxoxoxo
Jen M. April 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Thanks for you reply...it gives me some hope. Most of the time the online posts I read on this subject don't say how long an individual went through their intrusive thoughts, and when they finally ended-for the most part. I don't know why...it would help each of us to know how long someone else's personal experience did last for. And yes, I do hope they pass soon. It really is a mentally traumatic experience. My therapist relates the experience to having PTSD from these thoughts/images, except of course it is not the same. Still, the symptoms are similar. Be well.
COURTNEY RUNDELL April 18, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Definitely traumatic. It's horrible. Hang in there - they will pass. I love to know how long! Once I got into action and really started working on it - it was only a few weeks before they lessened in severity. Those hormones suck. This too shall pass. Keep being honest about the thoughts and before you know it, you'll be helping someone else go through it! xoxox
Jen M. May 14, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Hi Courtney. I'm currently now in my 4th month of postpartum OCD and postpartum depression. Stilll dealing with the horrors of intrusive thoughts, anxiety, paranoia, etc. I have a tough time being alone with my baby because of intrusive thoughts...you might call it a phobia. It's worse right now since I'm in PMS mode. I have friends come over to be with us a lot. My question to you today is this...did you ever have a tough time being alone with your baby because of intrusive thoughts? If so, what steps did you take to improve your feelings about being around him on your own?
COURTNEY RUNDELL May 14, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Hey Jen, I'm so sorry you're going through it. I know how horrible those thoughts are and how scary they are. I was alone with my son and what I did was safeguard myself from the fear I had, ie. one of the most frequent thoughts was that I'd throw him out the window, so I duct taped my windows shut. My therapist agreed that it was a good measure to take because it made me feel safe from myself. Another one I had was the car, so I wouldn't be in the back seat with him for fear of my own impulses. I don't know if this helps at all, but that's what I did. When I had the thoughts (after I got used to them) I'd text a friend, or my therapist, or my husband - whoever - to try to give some of the power of the thought away. It sucks. Again I'm so sorry. It does pass, but not soon enough. My son is 8 months old now and it got considerably better after he started sleeping through the night (we did sleep training - I highly rec. it to those of us with PP disorders) at 5 months. I did have a really rough period last week and the thoughts came back, but not with the same intensity and they didn't scare me. Please let me know if I can help with anymore of my experience. Also, have you been to postpartum.net? It's a WONDERFUL resource with tons of info and a lot of compassion. xoxo, Courtney
Jen M. May 15, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Thanks. Yes, I have been to postpartum.net many times. I know what you mean about the windows...I did something similar with mine in terms of locking them. I feel like I've run the gamut with shielding myself and my son from my intrusive thoughts and impulses. Just wanted to get a window on someone else's experience with overcoming a certain phobia. I'm allowing myself a few hours every day to spend alone with him, until I feel safe to do it for a whole day. I'll keep you posted....and keep up the good thoughts! I know I will.
COURTNEY RUNDELL May 15, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Awesome job, Jen! You're doing great. I also remember my therapist told me something I took with me that may help - she said people who are scared they will hurt their children aren't the people who actually hurt their children. That helped me a lot. Hang in there! xoxo
Jen M. May 16, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Thanks Courtney. Yes, my therapist told me that as well...although I'm careful in viewing that statement, knowing that there have been documented cases of women who were scared they would hurt their children actually carrying it out. In those cases though, the women did not seem to have much of a support network, if any, which to me is vital for any recovery to take place. I'll be hanging in there with the support of some very good people around me. Take care, and I'll be in touch.
COURTNEY RUNDELL May 16, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Oh no - thank God I didn't know that because it worked for me. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. You're in the solution and I'm proud of you. I hope it passes soon. xoxo
Jen M. August 18, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Hi there. I'm now in my 8th month of postpartum OCD and postpartum depression. I finally had to check myself into the hospital (psychiatric unit) for a month. Yes, I got to the extreme point where it was time for that. I underwent ECT, which has helped with the intrusive thoughts. I urge anyone who is going through postpartum OCD or postpartum depression with intrusive thoughts to give electroconvulsive therapy some thought. It's been around a very long time, and helps when medication does not seem to help out that much. Still not out of the woods yet...but I'm trying to get out. My question is, what is the pattern of intrusive thoughts starting to go away? Does it happen quickly, slowly, does it come and go -- how do the thoughts dissipate? And over how long of a period of time? Thanks.
COURTNEY RUNDELL August 23, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Hey Jen! Good for you for taking care of yourself. My psychiatrist is a big fan of ECT for med resistant patients. I'm sorry it got to that point for you, but I'm so happy to hear that you've been so proactive. I think the best thing we can do for our babies is take care of ourselves. Those thoughts are so frightening In answer to your question, the more consistently I slept, the less scary thoughts I had. I also slept about 12 hours a day until around 8 months. My brain needed it to restore. I still have the thoughts when I'm sick or sleep deprived, but they're not obsessive. They come in & out pretty quickly. My son is 1 today! Also, he's in daycare mon - fri. That totally helped. Being a SAHM was horrible for my mental health. The thoughts got much better once he went into daycare & I started working freelance. I don't know if any of this helps, but I understand and am totally cheering you on. You're amazing & brave. I'm praying for you.
Jen M. August 24, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Thanks for the feedback, Courtney. I'll keep all that in mind. I do try to get plenty of sleep and yes, I do believe having a job again would really help me in terms of my mental health. Thanks for the prayers also. They are much needed and appreciated. Take care.
Jen M. October 31, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Hi Courtney. Thanks for all the support. I'm approaching ten months now with postpartum OCD and postpartum depression. I've had more ECT outpatient treatments...up until the last one, which actually made me feel worse temporarily, so I'll be ending the treatments. The postpartum intrusive thoughts aren't as bad as say, when I was two months into this. The ECT seemed to help that, at least. I'm still praying to get through this, healed. Hopefully, I'll continue on this better spiral. I always hope the good days last. Knock on wood.
COURTNEY RUNDELL November 02, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Hi Jen! It's so good to hear from you. I'm 14 months in and am told that it can take up to 2 years to completely get rid of postpartum mood disorders. I now have made it up to 3 solid weeks completely balanced and am feeling super close to my son (which took about a year). When the balance goes away, it's really hard and scary. I don't have compulsive intrusive thoughts anymore, thankfully, but they still come in and go out. I met this woman www.hormonesoup.com in NYC and she has some interesting stuff on her site - she's not into meds, etc, so I just ignore that part - but her experience is very interesting and has peaked my interest. Just thought I'd throw it your way. I'm knocking on wood and praying for you and your family. I can't wait until we're both TOTALLY on the other side of all of this! xoxo
Jen M. November 02, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Hi Courtney. Yes, I've heard postpartum mood disorders can take up to 18 months to go away from my psychiatrist, and others say 2 years. I try not to think in terms of 2 years...I've been going through hell too long to think this'll last another year. Hopefully, not. I'll check out that website you suggested. As for the woman not being into meds, I totally understand that, since most meds I've tried over the years have not worked for me, or in the most recent case, have made me feel even worse. However, I am for meds for the people it does work for...everybody has to find their own solution. I'm happy to hear you're intrusive thoughts have died down, although it sounds like they still pop up from time to time. Take care, and thanks for all the prayers. Please keep them up for me and my family. Believe me, I appreciate them.
R Berry December 10, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Suffering from Postpartum OCD, now coming on my one year anniversary. I've had some intense counseling and it's done wonders. I am on meds and I thank god everyday for them because they get me through day to day. My therapist has told me many times that there are NO documented cases of a mother suffering from postpartum OCD harming her child. The danger lies more in a mother with postpartum OCD committing suicide in a bid to keep herself from harming her child. My therapist said that the biggest indicator that I have that I would never harm my child is that the thoughts are terrifying for me because they go against what I truly believe.
Jen M. December 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Hi R Berry. I'm so glad you're able to get through the day to day. Kudos to you for hanging in there and getting through what you're getting through. I'm at 11 months now with postpartum OCD. I wish I could find meds that work for me as they seem to work for you and countless others. Well, maybe one day. 'Til then, I'm still getting through it one hour at a time, with lots of prayer. Take care and be well.
COURTNEY RUNDELL December 16, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience, strength and hope. My son's 16-months old now and it's very, very rare that I have a scary thought and I don't become obsessed with them anymore. That was so scary. I'm so glad I could be of service to you by sharing my experience. There is hope...
Sonya January 04, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Hi Jen M, I've been reading your comments on and just wanted to say I'm sorry you're going through this. I was particularly intrigued when you mentioned your symptoms get worse with PMS. Your situtation sounds very similar to what mine was. I don't know if you are aware but postpartum mood disorder can evolve into a sort of terrible PMS. It's all about your progesterone levels. Perhaps your Magnesium levels too. I have a Magnesium expert who will be guest blogging for me soon specifically about the relationship between Magnesium and PMS so I hope you stay tuned for that. I'd love if you stop by my site and drop me a line. (Hugs) to you and your family. Sonya www.HormoneSoup.com PS. Courtney - hope you don't mind me hijacking your comment section! ;)
Sonya January 04, 2013 at 05:09 AM
Hi Courtney - I didn't know your PPOCD story until just now - the power that a suggestion can implant on us is huge - I don't think most people realize. I'm so sorry you went through this horror. Thanks for sharing your courageous story so others can benefit. Thank you for sharing my blog! I'm grateful for two important reasons: 1) if another woman finds help from my site then my work will be worthwhile! 2) I want to clarify my position on meds! I'm so glad you mentioned that because it made me realize that I must come across as being against medication! I hope you don't mind me clarifying because to be honest I'm not anti-meds. I am "for" doctors providing patients "all" the alternatives - I believe medication is a personal decision. The number of SSRI's being prescribed for everything from acne to PMS to hot flashes to depression has me concerned. My situation was such that I wasn't offered alternatives and I was offerred anti-depressants for PMS and later for PPMD. I was also given fertility drugs when in reality I have a progesterone deficiency. So my position is that year after year, health issue after health issue I was never "treated" I was just "prescribed". That's what I am against. Thank you for letting me clarify ;) Being a woman who spent over a decade suffering & found my way to seemingly simple health solutions makes it hard to sit back & watch in silence while other women suffer. I know that you know I come from a place of love & support
COURTNEY RUNDELL January 07, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Oh Sonya what a great comment. I've never thought of you as anti-meds. I do love the clarification though. It's so easy when we're unstable to assume someone is against what we are doing. Now that my meds have failed me, I have to be careful to not come across as against meds as well. I'm grateful for when they worked and I'm mad they stopped working. But it's gotten me to seek alternative remedies. Bottom line, I've learned that I have to be my own advocate, which is tricky when I'm not well... but we keep trudging... a day at a time! I love you woman.
Jen M. January 09, 2013 at 01:08 AM
Hi there. One year with postpartum OCD and counting. No meds. I'll be glad when this is over. Thanks for the responses. I'm sorry to hear that the meds stopped working for you, Courtney. That is so frustrating. Well, one day at a time. Some days it's one hour at a time. I wish peace and harmony for you and your family. Take care and God bless.
COURTNEY RUNDELL January 10, 2013 at 05:29 AM
Thanks, Jen. I'm so sorry you're still in it and I hope this is just a faint memory soon. I'm documenting my journey "on the natch" on my personal site www.beepea.com if you want to follow. Pregnancy and childbirth changed my chemistry so much that what worked before is no longer working. It's a challenge, but I'm hopeful of a sane and balance future. Hang in there, girlie - we can do this. xoxo
Jen M. March 06, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Hi there. 14 months with postpartum OCD and still going through it. I've given up believing this will end at some point. I won't be leaving any more comments at this blog because I don't like to leave depressing comments. Good luck to all of you, and take care.
COURTNEY RUNDELL March 10, 2013 at 06:21 AM
Oh Jen, I'm so so sorry you're still struggling. I'm free and clear of the OCD now and my son's 18 months old. I've gotten into meditation and hypnosis and it's done wonders in all areas of my life - I get them for free on YouTube. Please keep fighting. I'm praying for you. xoxo

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