“What we now know is that when the thoughts are unwanted and intrusivethe mother is no more at risk of hurting their infant than the women who are just reporting accidental harm thoughts because those thoughts are normal and happen all the time,” says Dr. Nichole Fairbrother, a clinical associate professor with UBC’s department of psychiatry and the Island Medical Program.
Out of 763 surveyed postpartum participants, a total of 388 provided data through questionnaires and interviews to assess unwanted, intrusive thoughts of infant-related harm, OCD, and maternal aggression towards the infant.
Among the 151 women who reported UITs of intentional harm, four reported behaving aggressively towards their infant, resulting in an estimated prevalence of 2.6 percentcompared to 3.1 percent in women who did not report this ideation.
The findings build on a recent study that found OCD among those who have recently given birth is more common than previously thought, often attributed to thoughts of harm related to the baby.
OCD is an anxiety-related condition characterized by the recurrence of unwanted, intrusive, and distressing thoughts. If left untreated, it can interfere with parenting, relationships, and daily living.
Recognizing the distinction between perfectly normal thoughts versus those that might indicate a need for treatment and those that might signal a threat to the baby could encourage better communication between healthcare workers and new mothers during a difficult time.
Right now, the concern is that there is so little understanding and education about this, that disclosures may trigger unhelpful responses.