An effective program to prevent new mothers from developing postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has been developed by a psychologist.
"Postpartum depression has received much attention, but anxiety related issues, especially obsessive compulsive symptoms, can also be devastating to mothers and their families," said Kiara Timpano, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UM College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator of the study.
"Many women experiencing these difficulties are not getting the services they need because they don't even know that what they are experiencing has a label and can be helped," she stated.
Condition of OCD includes intrusive thoughts about bad things happening to the baby. In order to control these unpleasant thoughts, the mothers develop rituals or other behaviours in response, like checking the baby excessively or washing a baby bottle many more times than is necessary.
The prevention program designed the MU team is based on cognitive behavioural therapy principle - a treatment technique that has been found to be highly effective for anxiety disorders.
The program included information on the warning signs of anxiety and OCD, as well as specific techniques for how to deal with the symptoms.
The prevention program was successful in reducing both the incidence of obsessive-compulsive symptoms and how distressing the participants (new mothers) were.
Compared to the control group, the mothers in the prevention program experienced less anxiety after the babies were born and they maintained this effect for at least six months postpartum.
The Journal of Psychiatric Research reported the findings online.