New Parenthood and Anxiety

Welcoming a new child into your family can give rise to a variety of different emotions, ranging from excitement to fear and anxiety. For some new parents, the upcoming birth of a child can give rise to a number of concerns and welcoming a new baby can be particularly difficult if a history of OCD or another anxiety disorder is already present.

The International OCD Foundation has compiled a factsheet for perinatal (occurring during pregnancy) and postpartum (occurring after the child’s birth) OCD  Here are some highlights:

-Obsessions generally center around fear about harm coming to the child. For instance, many moms-to-be are very careful about what they eat or drink in order to keep their baby healthy. For some new moms, these fears can give rise to a good deal of avoidance or compulsions (e.g., excessive checking, online research). Other new parents have unwanted intrusive thoughts about accidentally or intentionally harming their child, which can be very frightening and lead to compulsions and avoidance as well. Sometimes there is unintentional pressure from others to have only positive thoughts about the new arrival, which can exacerbate the distress about the intrusive thoughts and reluctance to seek help.

-It is understandable that anxiety would increase around the birth of a new child as changes, even positive ones, are stressful! New parents are often flooded with a number of messages from the wp-content/uploads or well-meaning friends and family regarding what they should or should not do to keep their child safe and healthy, when in reality there are many different valid perspectives on raising a child. In addition, fear of the unknown and increased responsibility are factors involved in the development of OCD and other anxiety symptoms, and are common among new parents as well.

-Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful in normalizing anxiety and stress for new parents, as well as teaching strategies for addressing obsessions and reducing avoidance and compulsive behaviors associated with these fears. For some, joining a parents’ group or OCD support group may be helpful in normalizing their experience and meeting others who have had similar experiences. Other resources are below:

Finally, be sure to engage in self-care! Reminding yourself that no one is perfect and that your well-being also matters will help you develop skills to build on as you make your way through this difficult but rewarding journey.