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OCD/ANXIETY While Pregnant


I’m 15 years old and have had OCD since the 5th grade. I’m pregnant, came off my medication (Effexor) for the pregnancy and have all of a sudden become overwhelmed with anxiety. I feel all of a sudden that I have to be perfect. Everything I’ve ever done wrong in my life is spewing out of my mouth because I feel as though the anxiety will lessen if I tell all my little secrets. I have to tell everything. Why is this coming back so bad and strong after I had it under control.

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

Medications like Effexor do not cure the underlying issues that lead people to develop conditions like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Instead, they cause modifications to occur inside the structure of the brain, at the cellular level (e.g., at the level of neurons and synapses) that in turn cause an easing of symptoms. The brain is an example of what is known as a homeostatic system. Homeostatis is a fancy word that means ‘self-balancing’. The brain always wants to return to its normal state, and there are mechanisms and feedback loops present that cause it to self-correct when it goes out of alignment. By taking medication every day that acts on the brain, you add a new force to the brain and the brain attempts to find a new balance that takes the drug’s presence into account. This new brain balance happens to be one where fewer symptoms are produced. Now that you are off the drug, the same homeostatic mechanisms are pushing the brain to go back to its original balance from before the medication. This is probably why the symptoms are coming back.

While you are less comfortable without the medication, it is the right thing to do to be off that medication while pregnant. Doctors worry about what medicines might do to developing babies and so cautiously have their patients come off medications that are not truely necessary while they are pregnant. Failure to come off the medication as advised by a doctor might possibly result in significant damage to your baby.

Tell your doctor about the return of your symptoms and see if she (or he) has any ideas about safe alternatives you might try.  It’s worth a shot.   

Unfortunately, OCD is one of those conditions that is difficult to endure without proper medication support. It will always be easier to have OCD and be on medication than to be without that medication. For the months where you cannot be on the medication you may wish to explore alternative and safe means of reducing your anxieties. Cognitive Behavioral psychotherapy can be a great help to some people struggling with anxiety disorders. Also, physical exercise (as recommended by your physician – you don’t want to overdo it and harm the developing baby!) can be a way to work off some of the nervous energy. Yoga programs can be a good choice for not-too-far-along pregnant women when they are developed with pregnancy in mind – you might want to explore what is available in your area.  Finally, self-soothing exercises are useful. 

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  • amy


    I was attending my GP regularly and taking Effexor for depression and OCD. I was off work at the time and during which became pregnant. This was a total suprise as with such irregular periods I never believed it possible. Any time I asked a medical health professional of the chances, prior to getting pregnant, they described it as very slim. When I found out I was pregnant I came straight off the Effexor and am trying to manage my anxiety on my own. My GP is great and pushed forward some counselling but I am over consumed with relatively small things and feel I have acted in a way to harm my baby. Last week my husband bought me an icecream which I ate when we were on a day out at a show. A few days after I read that this could cause huge damage to the baby and since then Ive been trying to track down the ice cream firm to ask about their hygeine levels, looked into private health care to have a listeriosis blood test and have been completely consumed with fear that the ice cream is going to end my pregnancy. All this with absaloutley no symptom of illness. Before listeriosis I was consumed with fear of HIV and Hep B but since my pregnancy routine test for such infection, this fear, although still there, has been minimised. I hate burdoning my Doctor, he is such a good man and has so much to do rather than sit and listen to me. I hate the fact I can not be rational and that I make others lives a mysery in my quest to either confront or wallow in my fears. The fact is I myther everybody with my overwhelming worry that just will not ease. Last week Id convinced myself I couldnt feel my baby and was rushed for a heart trace, this week its cross infection to the baby. I have a feeling that if I dont do something I will be a wreck when its time to give birth and will it stop then, I dont think so. I feel such an oddity and am fearing greatly about my ability to be a healthy mental influence on my baby even though the love I feel for him now is so overwhelming, there isnt anything I wouldnt do for him. I am sad to say but Monday morning I am going to have to make an appointment with my GP and I hate it because in another country or at another time Id of just got on with it.

  • Anonymous-1

    My heart goes out to you. My daughter whom is also pregnate and is OCD is having many of the same symtons as you. She is obbsessive that she is going to harm the baby and that it has already died. She is in nursing school and works at the hospital. You can just imagine what she is going thru to have to go into patients rooms . She has called me many times in tears that she might have given the baby HIV, Hep C TB and the list goes on. She has gone off her Zolof and she is expercing more obssesive thoughts than before. What has worked best for her is my 24 hr open line of ccomunication by cell phone. I stay in constant communication no matter what time of day and night. We go over and over everything she has done and over time she will work out in ther own mind that she is ok and the baby is ok. I help by being her sounding block and her unconscious mind that tells her over and over that she and the baby are find. This is something that may help you if you have someone you can talk to and will listen to all you have to say and not just tell you to think about something else. We all know a person with OCD just can't think about someting else. If you are married maybe you can talk to your husband or maybe your mother can help also. I know many people just don't understand the emotional panic you feel everyday. One thing you are strong, you are going to get thur this pregnancy and have a beautiful baby. I am a spiritual person and so is my daughter, I have no idea if you are but if you are talk all your fears to Jesus and let his peace come to you. I hope this will help and that you get the help you need .

  • ANNA

    Well I have been struggling with anxiety for as long as I can remember sometimes serious bouts,and now I just found out I was pregnant and am starting to have alot of anxiety terrible thoughts like what it I go insane have terrible post partom ocd and have heard all the horror storys about women losing there minds im so scared. Nobody seems to understand and they just to tell me tothink of something else or"get your mind off of it" and I cant I am convincedthat im going to go crazy and go to the nut house or I just wont want my baby or love it I cant stop these thoughts if anyone out there has had something like this please write back I would really appreciate it

  • L.A. mom

    I'm expecting again, having already had a few kids, and have relatively mild OCD, and I know how those anxiety-inducing thoughts just race through your head, especially while pregnant! What the mom in the post last June said is key: you need a support system to get through this time. See if you can find someone who is non-judgmental and can handle a lot of calls from you (both the time and emotion aspect of that).

    Once you find that person, they can help you get perspective on those "crazy" thoughts. Sometimes, just realizing that a particular thought is in the category of "jumping to conclusions", "worst-case scenario", "mind-reading," etc. allows you to file it away in your brain and ignore it. Remember never to feel guilty or like you are a bad person for having intrusive's the OCD, not you.

    I also have an OCD friend who is currently in therapy, and while slower than meds, it is VERY helpful. Be sure it is not just talk therapy, but working on behavior modification.

    Keep in touch with your doctor, but not just the OB or the GP...the psychiatrist. There may be a point where you are really, truly having a hard time coping, and the possible side effects of the meds could at that point be outbalanced by the benefits. OBs and GPs do not know how to deal with meds as well as psychiatrists, and they may not know how to deal with you. I once had an otherwise wonderful OB slightly freak out when discussing my OCD symptoms.

  • Anonymous-2

    I just want to add to a article that i read on Pragnant and have OCD. I have had REALLY BAD OCD since i can remember and a few weeks back i found out i was pregnant, obvious the doctor said STOP ALL MEDS, which i did and i almost went insane (anxiety attacks / depression etc) untill he (my GREAT Doctor) went to a seminar where this issue was one of the issues discussed. And guess what???? There's two types of drugs which they managed to dig up somewhere which is safe for you and your baby, obviously it has side effects like any other drug but he put me on Lexamil and it's great. The first day was a bit hard, side effects and all, the second day was better and ever since i've been a HAPPY person.

    It's not always easy but with the correct medical help you can have a great pregnancy. I use to hate being pregnant but now i just LOVE it

  • Candace

    I have had OCD since I was little, as far back as I remember. Counting stupid numbers and thinking stupid thoughts, scared to death about DEATH and now i'm also scared to death that i'm going to go insane and be in a nut house or looney home. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING that is listed above has happened to me. I completely understand all of you and I just want to tell you to HOLD ON.. You're going to be ok! I know you're sick of people telling you to think of something else and I know you're sick of people looking at you when you decide to open up to them and tell them your habits that you think are CRAZY. Never fear, we're in this together. I'm also prego and I'm taking Zoloft!

  • unhappy

    I am 6 months pregnant and going through ocd very bad..I wash my hands alot. If I don't keep my routine of baths or excessively washing hands I get bad anxiety and cry.I can't deal with it anymore when I snap out of the ocd for a while..I notice it happens at night and when i'm either tired or stressed..the only way I can make it go away is taking a bath or going to sleep. My hands and skin is kind of red..I wish my dr would let me have something to make it go away..

  • dena

    Hi i have ocd my whole life. i been on prozac got pregnant and came off the pills. my eight month my doctor put me on welbutrin to stop post partum because with my first child after i gave birth thaat night in the hospital i had post partum really bad and i suffered for a while aftehr the baby was born . so now i am 8 months prego and been having panic attacks and ocd but my doctor took me off of welbutrin and put me on buspar it has been like 6 days on it i am not feeling any better. in the morning when i wake up my mind is going crazy i feel sick panic attacks i cant eat i am so scared it goes on a off all day i think it is ocd and panic . what should i do i dont want to wake up in morning feeling like this but at night i feel better. please help

  • Lea

    I empathize with all of you. I have suffered from ocd for while and have always had to take different medications. Lucky even with OCD i have been able to conceive and give birdth to two wonderful children. I see a supportive and knowledgeable phychiatrist who alwys tries to help me hang on without medications but when it gets really words he has allopwed me continue taking them.


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