Obsessions and Compulsions in Postpartum Women Without Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2015 Oct;24(10):825-30. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2014.5063. Epub 2015 Jun 29.


Background: To describe the prevalence of obsessions and compulsions and the specific symptoms present in postpartum women without obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Methods: In this prospective cohort, women were screened with the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale at 2 weeks postpartum. Demographics and comorbid psychiatric symptoms were compared between women with screen-positive OCD, screen-negative OCD but with some endorsed symptoms (subclinical OCD), and no OCD symptoms. The prevalence of each specific set of obsessive and compulsive symptoms and the rate of impairment from those symptoms were compared.

Results: Of the 461 women included, 52 (11.2%) screened positive for OCD, while 173 (37.5%) reported experiencing subclinical obsessions or compulsions. This subclinical OCD was associated with an increased rate of depression (24%) and state-trait anxiety (8%) compared with women who did not endorse experiencing any obsessions or compulsions. Aggressive, religious, and somatic obsessions as well as obsessions with symmetry, when present, were most likely to result in OCD screen positivity.

Conclusions: Nearly half of all women who screen negative for OCD experienced obsessions or compulsions that did not result in OCD screen positivity. However, the presence of these subclinical obsessions and compulsions is associated with an increased rate of depression or anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illinois / epidemiology
  • Obsessive Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires