10 self-care tips for parents with perinatal OCD

If you have perinatal OCD, you might be wondering what you can do to help yourself get better. Here are some self-care tips to help you know more about the illness and make sure you recover well from perinatal OCD.

Perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a health condition, which is treated with talking therapies and/or medication (NICE, 2018). Here are some self-care tips that you can try too.

1. Talk about it

Talking to a close family member or friend as well as a health professional can really help (Easter et al, 2015; Mind, 2016). That’s because sharing obsessive thoughts with someone you trust can make those thoughts feel less powerful. If sharing your thoughts is difficult, you might find it helpful to write your feelings down before you talk about them together. Whoever you tell, talking to your GP will help them to put a treatment plan in place that will enable you to get better. Your GP will discuss with you the best support for you – taking into account the severity of your OCD and any other mental health illnesses if present.

2. Find out more about your condition

Get yourself some self-help books as well as online information (Tommy’s, 2018). Charities like Maternal OCD offer specific support for people with perinatal OCD (Maternal OCD, 2018). Self-help resources for OCD are also available from charities like OCD UK and OCD Action (OCD Action, 2018; OCD UK, 2018). It’s important to understand that perinatal OCD is a health condition, like any other, and with treatment you will get better.

3. Find some therapy

Try to access cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) if you can, which can help treat perinatal OCD (NHS, 2016). If you find you are on a long NHS waiting list for therapy (e.g. CBT), then self-care tips can help in the meantime.

You might also like to consider private therapy. If you do, always make sure a therapist is qualified and accredited by checking their credentials on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Mind, 2016).

4. Build a support network

"Strengthening relationships around you may help you feel less lonely and more able to cope. That’s why peer support can be really helpful."

Peer support brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to support each other. Peer support has many benefits, like feeling accepted for who you are, helping you feel less isolated and giving you a safe, non-judgmental space to talk (Mind, 2016).

You might also find an online support group helpful like OCD Action’s Perinatal OCD Support Group. You could find a more general OCD Action support group too, if you’d like to meet up with a group of people locally (OCD Action, 2018).

5. Manage your stress

Try to manage your stress levels. Your OCD can get worse if you are stressed and anxious (Mind, 2016). So it’s a good idea to make sure you take time out for yourself regularly and keep your stress levels in check. This can be tricky if you have a busy family life so make sure you ask people for help and support if you need it.

6. Relaxation techniques

Try some relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Relaxation can help you look after your wellbeing when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or busy (Mind, 2016).

Mindfulness can help you manage unwanted thoughts and reduce stress and anxiety too (Easter et al, 2015). So signing up to a relaxation or mindfulness class is an option. Making time to take a walk outside in nature could help bring your stress levels down too.

7. Prioritise sleep

Try to get enough sleep each night. It’s time to get those zzzzs in. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences (Mind, 2016). So make sure you try to get to bed at a reasonable time and switch off electronic devices an hour before bed to help promote a restful night’s sleep.

8. Healthy eating

We all know that it’s important to get your five a day but it can be hard to keep it up when you are a busy parent. Think about your diet and make sure you’re getting enough of the good stuff. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels (Mind, 2016).

9. Exercise

Try and take some exercise. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing (Mind, 2016). You can start small with short walks or gentle exercise like swimming and build it up slowly. Even a short walk can do wonders to help clear your mind after a busy or stressful day.

You might also like to consider a postnatal exercise class or a mother and baby yoga class where you’ll meet other mums with little ones of a similar age. Or you could try a home exercise workout DVD or YouTube video to get you moving.

10. Find what works for you

Different people may experience perinatal OCD in different ways. The same goes for your treatment. If something isn’t working for you, then have the confidence to go back and discuss your feelings and treatment options with your GP. Don’t be afraid of sharing how you are really feeling, any obtrusive thoughts you may have and if the treatment isn’t right for you. Find what really works for you and you will soon be in recovery.

This page was last reviewed in May 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing whatNCT activities are happening nearby.

The charity Maternal OCD offers specific support for perinatal OCD. Top UK is charity that helps people who have phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and other related anxiety; they have a network of self-help therapy groups

OCD self-help resources are available from charities like OCD UK and OCD Action. The NHS also has information on OCD and has an online community about this condition. Find out more about perinatal OCD from the charity MIND. Mind also has an Understanding OCD leaflet.

If you ever feel you can't go on, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, or call one of these helplines or support groupsor NHS 111.

Easter A, Howells H, Pawlby S. (2015) Talking therapies for mild perinatal anxiety and depression. NCT Perspective, September 2015. Available from: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/PerspectiveSeptember2015_0.pdf  [Accessed 1st May 2018]

Maternal OCD (2018) Finding help. Available from: https://maternalocd.org/finding-help/ [Accessed 1st May 2018]

MIND. (2016) Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/media/4703394/understanding-ocd_2016.pdf  [Accessed 25th May 2018]

NHS. (2016) Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd [Accessed 25th May 2018]

NICE. (2018) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. CG192.  Available from: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192/evidence [Accessed 25th May 2018]

OCD Action. (2018) I need support. Available from: https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/i-need-information-support [Accessed 25th May 2018]

RCPSYCH. (2018) Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/perinatal-ocd  [Accessed 25th May 2018]

Tommy's. (2018) Obsessive compulsive disorder in pregnancy. Available from: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/mental-wellbeing/specific-mental-health-conditions/obsessive-compulsive-disorder  [Accessed 25th May 2018]

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