Sep 29 , 2021
Postpartum rage is rarely talked about, but is a lot more common than you’d think. Since postpartum rage falls under the postpartum depression umbrella, it’s usually either overlooked or lumped in with feelings of sadness rather than fits of anger. This, plus in order for women to be diagnosed with a postpartum mood disorder, they need to be screened specifically for anger, which hasn’t been done in the past.
Our hunch is that socialization also plays a role. While it’s ‘acceptable’ for men to express anger, women often end up transforming their anger into a more socially appropriate expression—like sadness—or else be called overactive and asked to calm down. The tricky part in all this is that the anger, like any unexpressed emotion, doesn’t really go anywhere and suppressing it is only a temporary fix.
What is rage?
In its simplest definition, rage is a byproduct of anger and underneath anger is usually either fear, sadness or both. Baby or not, there are many situations which may spark anger within us, whether it be receiving criticism or being triggered by something that brings back a painful memory. Experiencing anger ranges from mild irritation, to frustration and at its peak, rage.
As we covered in our mental health resource guide, as many as 80-percent of mothers have had the symptoms of postpartum depression. The World Health Organization reports that about 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental health disorder, while Healthline reports that as many as 22% of women will experience a postpartum mood disorder more serious than the baby blues.
As you can see, the numbers vary and there’s still much research to be done. We hope that more moms feel empowered to speak openly about their postpartum struggles moving forward and that they feel less alone in doing so.
What are the symptoms of postpartum rage?
As with any mental health struggle, symptoms are going to vary. Below are a few tell-tale signs that you may be experiencing this difficult expression of anger:
- intense irritability or anger
- excessive crying
- feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness
- lack of interest in your baby, and withdrawal from loved ones
- screaming or swearing more than usual
- getting physical, such as punching a pillow or throwing objects
- violent thoughts, and especially those directed toward your family and friends
- trouble controlling your temper, struggling to ‘snap out’ of it
- restlessness or trouble sleeping
- emotional flooding after an outburst, accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame
What treatment options do I have?
The good news is that help is on the horizon. Remember, postpartum rage shows up differently in everyone and since you know yourself better than anyone, we encourage you to seek the help of a doctor.
Therapy is a great starting point. These days, it’s often not necessary to meet with your therapist in person. Instead, you can set up a video call with them on a day/time that works for you both. There are lots of different therapeutic approaches out there. Platforms like Talkspace that connect you with licensed therapists, can be a great starting point.
Medication works best when taken in conjunction with therapy. Unfortunately, there’s still a bit of stigma around SSRI’s and other mood-balancing medications. Don’t let this deter you from doing what is best for you and your family. Remember, medication is not necessarily a permanent solution; in fact, for most moms experiencing postpartum rage, medications are usually prescribed with the intention of temporary use.
If therapy or medication aren’t options for you, seek support elsewhere. Robyn is a great example of an alternative, virtual support resource. They connect aspiring, expecting with the support they need, ranging from mental health check-ins and fertility coaching to acupuncture and chiropractic care. Other lifestyle changes, such as incorporating meditation or journaling into your morning routine and exercising regularly, may help to shift your mood.
Are there any warning signs to watch out for?
Below are a few risk-factors that might increase your risk of experiencing postpartum rage:
- if you have a history of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety
- difficulty breastfeeding (this can mess with your mood for sure)
- a lack of support or no support system (it’s worth noting that women of color are at a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression than white women and less likely to receive the care they need)
- going through other difficult moments, such as losing a job or having a death in the family
- parenting a child with special needs
Being a new mom is tough stuff, what with the sleep deprivation, breastfeeding challenges, hormonal changes and physical pain from giving birth. Having bouts of anger is nothing to be ashamed of actually very normal, especially when under such stress.
Of course, if you feel like it’s getting out of hand, the best thing you can do for you and your baby is to seek help, whatever that means to you. You got this, mama!