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date: 18 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although for most women the perinatal period is an exciting and joyful time, some new mothers experience the onset (or intensification) of emotional distress during this period. Whereas a great deal of attention has been paid to depression and psychotic symptoms during the postpartum period, pre- and postpartum anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), have received relatively less consideration. This is despite the fact that anxiety disorders are, as a group, the most prevalent of all psychological disorders. Anxiety disorders are more common among women compared with men, and OCD is the only anxiety disorder for which there is evidence of an increased risk of onset and exacerbation in the perinatal period; this risk is most apparent for women giving birth to their first child. In this chapter, we provide an overview and description of the clinical features of perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder and consider the degree to which perinatal OCD is related to OCD in general. We review the data pertaining to the incidence and prevalence of perinatal OCD and discuss the relation between perinatal OCD and postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Theoretical perspectives on perinatal OCD are then presented before turning to treatment. Lastly, two interventions have been shown to be effective for perinatal OCD are described: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy.

Keywords: obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum, perinatal, intrusive thoughts, cognitive behavior therapy

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