MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – An assistant professor for West Virginia University has done a research study to teach pregnant women cognitive behavior therapy skills to prevent anxiety and OCD during the post-partum period.
Dr. Shari Steinman explained there is postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and other sorts of mental health difficulties you can have after birth. Steinman continued to state postpartum anxiety is more common than postpartum depression, but fewer people are aware of it.
“It’s less frequently studied and less frequently talked about but, it can have really severe impacts,” said Steinman.
Postpartum anxiety is any significant increase in anxiety that happens after you have a new baby. Steinman described it could be about worries about the baby’s health or concerns about the baby. It could also be an increase in your own anxiety, like concerns about COVID or concerns about burglaries.
Postpartum OCD is related to postpartum anxiety. It’s when you have intrusive thoughts. Steinman stated there is an increase in OCD in the postpartum period.
“Some moms have thoughts like they’re going to kill their baby or they’re going to hurt their baby or something terrible is going to happen to their baby,” described Steinman. “Doctors often misidentify that or miss diagnose that as psychosis or depression.”
Steiman started her research in April 2020 with 19 women who were in their third trimester. Her research study was a mix between a therapy session and a PowerPoint presentation since it was done virtually.
“So the moms got seven sessions, we called them models and each one taught them different ways to challenge their thoughts and change their behaviors,” said Steinman.
In the research study, they found the moms who completed the program did have a decrease in the risk factors associated with postpartum anxiety and OCD. Women’s dysfunctional beliefs, negative interpretations, prenatal anxiety, all of those things went down during the program.
They even incorporated information for partners in the study, where they saw an increase in perceived support.
Doctor Steinman stated they now are working to do a similar study with 50 to 100 women. They want to try half of the participants with their program and the other half with a controlled condition where they’re not learning the skills so they can make sure the changes they see only happen from their program and not just happen to everyone over time.
“I think the moms right now are really brave, I think this is such a tough environment to be having a child and being a new mom so all you moms that are doing it right now I’m really impressed,” said Steinman.