New program aims to help moms with perinatal OCD

PITTSBURGH — We hear of postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. But have you heard of perinatal (when women are pregnant and the year following) OCD?

There is a new program that’s one of only a handful across the country that is addressing this form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Kimberly Quamme was part of the program. She invited us into her home to show us some of the beautiful pictures of her family. She’s come a long way since a picture was taken shortly after the birth of her second child. Behind that smile, she was working through all the post-partum responsibilities and feelings, with an added stressor.

“They said, ‘You know, this sounds like OCD,’” she told us with a blank face.

Even working in mental health, this Economy Borough mom didn’t know that what she was feeling was obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perinatal OCD affects pregnant and postpartum women. Kimberly bravely shares what she went through, starting with feelings she had during her first pregnancy.

“I would have these really random thoughts of intense violent things happening to my baby,” said Kimberly. “For example, I would see her an image of her on the stove, like laying on the stove.”

But she didn’t tell anyone.

“Because I was so scared of what people would think of me having these thoughts,” said Kimberly.

But when she was scared she’d have these thoughts again after she delivered her second baby, Kimberly spoke up at the hospital. After diagnosing her with Perinatal OCD, they connected her with a new Perinatal OCD Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program at UPMC.

“It is something I feel is underrecognized and underdiagnosed,” said Dr. Jatinder Babbar-Medical Director for Adult Ambulatory Services Outpatient Western Psych Hospital UPMC

Dr. Babbar heads up the program which he believes is one of only five in the country. He says these numbers show the need: OCD generally affects 2% of the population. In perinatal women, he says it’s as high as 15%.

But he can’t pinpoint a reason.

Here’s how the structured program works:

Women meet with the other moms in the program three times a week. They also meet with a therapist and Dr. Babbar. All of it is virtual, which is intended to make it easier for new moms. Women are in the program for six to eight weeks, or as long as they need.

“The most important thing is early intervention and treatment because it can really alter the course of the illness, said Dr. Babbar. “Not only does it help the patient, it helps the baby and the entire family.”

“You learn the tools you need to live without compulsively checking to make sure that things are okay and there’s a freedom in that,” said Kimberly.

Dr. Babbar says the UPMC perinatal OCD program has been very successful since it started in the fall and almost every mom that comes through does get better.

Kimberly is one of them.

“I really just want women to know that they’re not alone, said Kimberly. “It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mother. The fact that you care enough and you’re concerned about these thoughts mean that you’re a great mother.”

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