(Ep. 21) Intrusive Thoughts and Postpartum OCD with Dr. Nichole Fairbrother

Content Warning: This episode  contains detailed descriptions of intrusive thinking- of deliberate or accidental harm coming to a baby. Please listen with caution and make sure to look after yourself.

If you would like a gentler introduction to intrusive thinking we recommend starting with episode 1 (Sheila and Heather).

Please call in if you would like  support around things that may arise for you related to this episode.


Have you ever had upsetting thoughts jump into your head seemingly out of nowhere? Those are called intrusive thoughts! If you have had these random unwanted thoughts before (and most of us have!) this episode is for you. In this episode of Beyond Postpartum, I chat with Dr. Nichole Fairbrother, who is a psychologist, clinical associate professor with the UBC Island Medical Program, and the director of the Perinatal Anxiety Research Lab. Included in her many different areas of expertise are intrusive thoughts and postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How she began her research career in the area of anxiety disorders and OCD
  • What brought her to be interested in perinatal anxiety disorders and OCD
  • That we all experience ‘random’ thoughts all day long – it’s the ones that are upsetting to us that we draw our attention to
  • The intrusive thoughts that she had when her son was little
  • And how these thoughts led her to her field of research study – a field that hadn’t been well researched
  • That almost every new parent will have thoughts about accidental harm coming to their baby
  • The reasons why OCD is more common in the perinatal period
  • When intrusive thoughts become OCD
  • The evolutionary theory behind why intrusive thoughts are so common in the postpartum period
  • The research and other projects Nichole is working on
  • Why people tend to keep these thoughts a secret
  • How to tell the difference between unwanted intrusive thoughts and thoughts that might be concerning
  • When you do need to worry about your thoughts, and when you don’t
  • The criteria for diagnosis of OCD
  • The challenges of diagnosing OCD in the postpartum period
  • The possible connection between separation anxiety and experiences of loss earlier in life with postpartum OCD
  • The treatment of choice for OCD
  • Using medications as part of treatment
  • Recovery from postpartum OCD


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