Skip to content

OU on the BBC: All in the Mind - Perinatal OCD and Visual Cliff

Updated Tuesday, 16th December 2014

Claudia and guests discuss OCD during pregnancy or after childbirth, the influence causing a baby's anxiety and special brain cells. 

When and where

Wednesday, 17th December 2014 15:30 - BBC Radio 4

Subscribe to our What's On feed

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

In the BBC's All in the Mind, Claudia Hammond and guests delve deeper into the potential and limits of the human mind.

Here at the Open University, we've collated a great range of FREE resources - from podcasts to mini courses - on the subjects discussed in the episode. Find out more about the issues raised in All in the Mind by clicking here.

On this week's programme: 

Perinatal OCD:

baby feet in a blanket Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Paul Hakitima | Perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder can start during pregnancy or after childbirth. It involves fears of mothers harming their baby from contamination with mothers having thoughts that they harm: kill or stab or abuse their baby. These mothers never act on those thoughts except for the compulsive behaviour they go to to AVOID any of these actions happening to protect their baby and prevent themselves from harming it. From hiding knives and razor blades to excessive cleaning to always having someone else present during nappy changing. Women can become suicidal and in extreme cases avoid contact with their bay. Women don’t want to talk to people about their fears and often don’t realise they have an anxiety disorder. One interviewee said she asked her psychiatrist if she was Myra Hindley – she was SO worried about the harm she could cause to her baby. The difficulty can be made even worse if women voice their fears and it’s not realised that this is anxiety and they won’t harm their baby. Some cases have happened where women went into mother and baby units and were separated to avoid contact. This only reinforced their belief they were a risk to their baby. The problem is under recognised and can be misdiagnosed as Post natal depression.

Visual Cliff:

Are a baby’s anxiety levels influenced more by their mother or their father? This is what psychologists at the University of Amsterdam set out to answer and they used a classic technique from psychology – something called a visual cliff. Post-doctoral researcher in child development Eline Moller talked to us about the research.

Mirror neurons:

There’s a special kind of brain cell which you might have heard of – the mirror neuron. First discovered in monkeys they’ve been credited with everything from crying in sympathy to infectious yawning and even heroism. They’ve even been hailed as the brains cells that underpin civilisations and that have made us human. So are they really as special as we’re told? Celia Heyes is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford who has done copious research on mirror neurons. She explains.

This edition of All in the Mind is first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 16th December 2014. For further details, and to listen online where available, please visit the BBC website.

View more episode guides in this series

Find out more about OCD and understanding children




Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?