Perinatal Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder: Epidemiology, Phenomenology, Etiology, and Treatment

Neha Hudepohl, Joanna V. MacLean, Lauren M. Osborne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: We review recent evidence concerning the epidemiology, etiology, and treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) in the perinatal period. We examine studies reporting on rates of both new-onset OCD and exacerbation in both pregnancy and postpartum; explore both biological and psychosocial risk factors for the disorder; and review the latest evidence concerning treatment. Recent Findings: Evidence is limited in all areas, with rates of both OCD and subthreshold obsessive–compulsive symptoms varying widely across studies. Prevalence is likely higher in the perinatal period than in the general population. Clinical features in the perinatal period are more likely than at other times to concern harm to the child, with contamination and aggressive obsessions and cleaning and checking compulsions especially common. Research into the biological etiology is too limited at this time to be definitive. Both observational and randomized controlled trials support cognitive behavioral therapy with exposure and response prevention (CBT with ERP) as a first-line treatment, with limited evidence also supporting the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Treatment considerations in the perinatal period must weigh the risks of treatment vs. the risks of untreated illness. Summary: Perinatal OCD is common and can be impairing. Clinical features differ somewhat compared to non-perinatal periods. Treatment does not differ from that used in the general population, though evidence pertaining specifically to the perinatal period is sparse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent psychiatry reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Obsessive–compulsive disorder
  • Perinatal
  • Postpartum
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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