Health conditions

Obsessive compulsive disorder – emotional health for new parents

What is obsessive compulsive disorder?

When you are pregnant or have a new baby, it can seem like all you do and think about is the baby.

If you have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), you will have unwanted, persistent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions). These can cause anxiety.

You will also have compulsions. These are repetitive behaviours or rituals either in response to an obsession or according to rigid rules.

Compulsions are often acted out with the aim of stopping a dreaded event from occurring.

Signs and symptoms

General signs and symptoms of OCD can include:


  • fear of germs or dirt
  • fear of having forgotten something
  • a need to keep things in a specific order
  • fear of doing something terrible (like hurting someone).


  • repeated hand washing
  • counting things
  • checking on things.

Signs and symptoms in mothers with OCD

These can include:

  • intrusive thoughts about the baby’s health or safety
  • rituals of cleaning or dressing routines
  • repeatedly checking on the baby
  • intrusive thoughts about harming the baby, including avoiding the baby because they fear acting on these thoughts.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician, child health nurse or midwife
  • Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Phone the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436
  • Phone the Mental Health Emergency Response Line – Perth metro 1300 55 788 or Peel 1800 676 822
  • Phone Rural Link, an after-hours mental health phone service for rural communities, on 1800 552 002
  • Phone the Post and Antenatal Depression Association helpline on 1300 726 306 (9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday)
  • Phone the Parenting Line on 1800 654 432
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222

Women and Newborn Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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