Up to 80% of postpartum mothers/parents experience intrusive thoughts! Intrusive thoughts are unwanted distressing thoughts that can occur. Read more to learn about intrusive thoughts and what to do if you are having them.
Intrusive thoughts are EXTREMELY common. However, just because they are common, does not mean they aren’t distressing. The first thing that you need to hear is that intrusive thoughts are extremely common. Like over 90% of postpartum mother’s experience them common!
Intrusive thoughts can be a form of anxiety or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Postpartum OCD is absolutely a thing and there is evidence based treatment for it!
We know a scary thought is an intrusive thought when it is ego dystonic, meaning it is distressing to the person who is experiencing the thought.
Clinicians worry about thoughts around harm when they are egosyntonic, meaning the thoughts are NOT distressing to the individual. This is a far less common scenario.
Intrusive thoughts can be about anything, and I mean anything. The topics can range from unwanted oddly specific scenarios to cringe worthy sexual scenarios. They can creep up at any point in time.
The key thing to remember is that intrusive thoughts are MEANINGLESS! Clinician’s don’t care about the content of the thoughts. This doesn’t mean we don’t care about you. The goal is to empower you to dismember the hold that these thoughts have on you. I know how scary these thoughts can be and of course I have experienced them myself.
I promise you, we have heard it all. If you’re wondering why this process it occurs, it’s a combination of the hormones released after you deliver, lack of sleep along with a major life event occurring.
Some women/birthing people experience intrusive thoughts throughout their pregnancy as well. These thoughts can feel consuming and debilitating, which is why it is so important to get help with these thoughts!
Treatment for Intrusive Thoughts
Treatment for intrusive thoughts is standardized in psychotherapy. A clinician will assess you to determine if the intrusive thoughts are stemming from anxiety or from OCD. The type of therapy modality will vary depending on the diagnosis.
If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts to due to OCD, then ERP (exposure and response prevention) therapy is the “gold standard” treatment.
The underlying “condition” matters because process-based therapy is not evidence based when dealing with OCD. Medication does wonders for many as well.
A reproductive psychiatrist can determine which SSRI would be best for you. Reproductive psychiatrist’s are psychiatrist’s who specialize in pregnant and lactating people.
If you are not ready to engage in talk therapy, that’s okay! There are some really great bibliotherapy options available as well.
You can absolutely book a consult with me (Deema) to talk through what you are experiencing and help narrow down the right type of help for you!
Other helpful blog posts:
- A therapist’s guide to postpartum depression resources
- Deema’s story – coping with an unplanned pregnancy
- Kate’s unplanned pregnancy story
- Gender disappointment
- All about Deema