Obsessive-compulsive symptoms in pregnancy and the puerperium: a review of the literature

J Anxiety Disord. 2003;17(4):461-78. doi: 10.1016/s0887-6185(02)00206-2.


In this article, we review the available research on postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Most studies are retrospective in nature, thus not answering questions as to overall prevalence of such symptoms. However, there are consistent findings with regard to symptom profile: obsessional thoughts in postpartum OCD tend to concern fears of harm to the infant. We discuss distinctions between postpartum OCD symptoms and postpartum depression and psychosis. Although preliminary, research on treatments for postpartum OCD indicates the effectiveness of medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy. We explore the relationship between OCD symptoms and postpartum depression and offer possible directions for future study. We also consider the proposed etiological models and offer a fresh conceptualization of this condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression, Postpartum / complications
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / etiology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index