I do worry for other women experiencing perinatal OCD. Awareness and understanding needs to increase among healthcare professionals.
I became a mum for the first time at the age of 17. The birth was a traumatic experience which ended with me having an emergency C-section. Afterwards, I would constantly think that I was going to lose him. So much so that throughout the night, every 30 minutes, I had to check that he was okay. Behaviour that left me exhausted and even more susceptible to intrusive thoughts.
My health visitor picked up on how I was feeling and advised me to see my GP. But the doctor misdiagnosed me with postnatal depression and only offered me antidepressants. I didn’t take these because I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t offered any other support.
Constant intrusive thoughts
Thankfully, with the support of my husband and family, after several months my intrusive thoughts began to subside. But six years later, following three miscarriages, similar thoughts began to overwhelm me when I became pregnant again. Every day I couldn’t stop thinking that I was going to miscarry again, and I constantly feared for the safety of my unborn baby and my son.
One day, my husband returned home early from a work trip to find that I’d barricaded all the doors and windows so no one could get in. I thought I was just being safe, but he saw that I needed help and contacted my local perinatal mental health team. They diagnosed me with perinatal OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder].
Early intervention is vital
Following my diagnosis, things got worse before they got better. I became suicidal and my husband had to take time off work to look after me and my son. I couldn’t function. It was a very scary time. But after I started CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] and gave birth to my daughter, my symptoms started to ease. I was able to bond with my daughter and started attending peer support groups, which I found so helpful.
Today, things are so much better. But I do worry for other women experiencing perinatal OCD. Awareness and understanding need to increase among healthcare professionals, because early intervention is vital to good outcomes. I’d also like to see better support for family and friends, so they can spot warning signs early and know how to support someone going through this.
Perinatal OCD is an incredibly difficult condition to deal with, especially if you don’t get the right support at the right time. But I do want others to know that with the support of family and friends and maternal and mental health professionals, things can and do get better.
For more information about perinatal OCD, visit MMHA member Maternal OCD’s website.
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