I've just joined this forum as a way of talking to people about what my wife and I are facing at the moment. I don't have any mental health issues myself, and my wife was always a 'bit of a worrier'. She has always had little habits such as checking the plugs (or electrical things in general), oven and doors before bed. Generally quite sensible of course, and not really a problem. She then became pregnant with our daughter, about 3 years ago. She is a very caring, dedicated and thoughtful person, so she put everything into the pregnancy. She gave up tea and coffee and tried to do everything by the book. It was mostly ok with the occasional worry about whether eggs were pasteurised etc. She had two occasions where she had to be in hospital for some sort of stomach bug. Then, towards the end of the pregnancy she started worrying about toxoplasmosis. She started getting anxious about having got it and the effect it could have on the baby. The birth wasn't ideal as she wanted a natural birth but ended up needing an epidural and ventouse. She had lost quite a lot of blood and needed stitches etc and stayed in hospital for just under a week. On about the third day, a medical swab "fell out" of her, it had been left there by accident after the birth. This had quite an effect on her at the time as she was worried about what else might have gone wrong.
After the birth, she was very anxious about letting my parents see our child. My parents have dogs and there was a fear that they would be "dirty". This slowly became fears about having harmed the baby by accident. She worried about accidentally having given it a brain haemorrhage by pushing the pram over a bumpy pavement. She worried about having given it some form of hepatitis while preparing something in the kitchen. She thought my mother had AIDS and so my parents basically didn't see their grandchild for the first 5 months. We had many trips to the doctors and to out-of-hours services for one reason or another. Neither of us knew what was happening, so there are many arguments - I couldn't understand why she thought those things and she was convinced she was right. She was diagnosed with post-natal OCD and started taking an SSRI. She had some CBT but that wasn't particularly helpful. Whilst taking the medication she very briefly breastfed our daughter and so became convinced that our daughter would die on her 10th birthday from a brain tumor because of the drugs.
The medication started to work and, although she was emotionally numb, she was starting to get better. Then her brother, two years younger at age 28, took his own life. It was completely unexpected and was a tragic shock. We were woken up at 1 o'clock in the morning to banging on the front door and were told within seconds of opening it. We had no idea why he did it, but I did some forensics on his laptop and mobile phones and found a large number of google searches related to brain an nasal tumors. As time went on, and after getting access to his medical records, it was clear that he had developed health anxiety. He had various non-life-threatening conditions when he was a teenager and probably convinced himself that he was terminally ill. No body was aware of what he was going through, although some of his friends did apparently know that he "checked" things (apparently there were occasions where he had been late because he couldn't leave the house). The sadness was intense and the grief complicated, but it did push aside her OCD and anxiety, to be replaced with guilt of not having help him and anger and various forms. She had counselling, initially with a bereavement organisation, but that was a total disaster. She then had private counselling for about a year with a different organisation which helped her work through some of her issues, including getting over the bereavement counselling. I started having counselling there too so that I would be in a better position to help her and as a chance for me to talk through some of the relationship issues we were facing with so much stress, anger and sadness all around us.
My wife is now 11 weeks pregnant again, and the health anxiety/OCD is back. So far she has worried about exposure to lead paint during decoration work at the gym; exposure to something bad whilst walking past a building site in central London; excessive mobile phone usage whilst being pregnant (she hardly uses it but was worried about carrying it around and generally having it near her); having had baths and showers that were too hot; not having eaten properly during and the latest one which is having drunk too much tea (she has two cups in the weekday mornings and has cut out all coffee). She is of course convinced that the baby will suffer because of her actions, and nothing I say can make her believe otherwise. She will always find facts to "prove" she has something worry about (the NHS guidelines have a lot to answer for) and is always unconvinced by anything that contradicts her because I "cannot know for sure". She cannot emotionally accept imperfection and uncertainty. The pregnancy was not an accident, it was what she wanted before the anxiety kicked in, but she now flips back and forth between wanting an abortion or not. This is on top of the complexity of having lost her sibling, and basically her childhood, and the difficulty of seeing her childhood reflected in our children, especially if the new baby is a boy. She of course fears the loss of the baby and the effect that would have on our daughter. She does understand that her childhood and our children's childhood are very different, but because she is convinced that she has done something that will cause the new baby to die or have severe problems, she lives in a permanent state of guilt and fear.
I think that if she could just get through the anxiety, she would be happiest having the child. Although she already feels like a murderer, she will probably feel a massive sense of loss if she had an abortion, particularly because it would mean that the actions of her brother will have forever shaped her future, stopping her living the life she once dreamed of.
Thank you for listening, and I welcome any thoughts, advice or suggestions to help us get through this difficult time.