Why New Moms Need to Talk More About Postpartum Rage

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These days, most of us have heard of postpartum depression—and that’s a very good thing. It means there is less stigma around having postpartum depression and seeking treatment for it. Yet what many of us don’t realize is that there is more to postpartum depression than feeling sad and hopeless.

Postpartum depression encompasses many symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, and misery. But the symptom that many surprise you most is rage.

Yes: it’s actually very common for women who are experiencing postpartum depression to have moments—and sometimes a more pervasive feeling—of anger and full-on rage.

This experience can be difficult for many women, because the rage often seems to come out of nowhere. And because it’s a symptom of postpartum depression that many women aren’t aware of, they tend to push the rage away, which usually only makes it worse. Or they experience intense guilt over it, and blame themselves for feeling so out of control.

That’s all the more reason, though, that we need to talk about this very common—and very treatable—symptom of postpartum depression. Moms need to know that it’s not their fault if they are feeling this way.

What Is Postpartum Rage?

Postpartum rage is one of the symptoms that accompanies postpartum depression. So the first question is: How do you know if you have postpartum depression?

  • Postpartum depression is a serious mental health disorder affecting as many as 1 in 7 women after giving birth.
  • It’s different than the very common “baby blues” that most moms experience in the first two weeks after birth.
  • Postpartum depression has more severe symptoms, and is diagnosed when the symptoms have lasted more than two weeks.
  • Symptoms of postpartum depression include difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, feeling disconnected from your baby, trouble sleeping, and significant anxiety and moodiness.

How Common Is Postpartum Rage?

If you look at any common list of postpartum depression symptoms, you will see anger—and often rage—listed. But how common is it? And what does it really look like?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a ton of research on the pervasiveness of anger and rage as a symptom of postpartum depression. But there is one important study from 2018 conducted by a group of researchers from the University of British Columbia. The team of researchers, led by Christine H. Ou and Wendy A. Hall, pored through relevant literature about postpartum depression over the 25 years from 1991 to 2016.

Ou and Hall found rage to be a very common symptom of postpartum depression, and one that has been woefully overlooked. “We know that mothers can be depressed and anxious in the postpartum period, but researchers haven’t really paid attention to anger,” Ou said in a press release about the study.

What’s more, says Ou, anger often compounds postpartum depression, making it more difficult to treat and making the symptoms last longer. “There’s some evidence that indicates that being both angry and depressed worsens the intensity and length of depression,” said Ou. “That can have many negative effects on the mother, child and family, and on the relationship between parents.”

Symptoms of Postpartum Rage

All women experience postpartum rage a little differently. You may experience it is as the dominant feature of your postpartum depression. You may experience it intermittently, or you may not experience it much at all.

  • For many women, postpartum rage hits them suddenly, like in the middle of the night when their baby is up again, and they don’t know how they are going to make it through the next feeding.
  • They may experience postpartum rage in situations that don’t even seem related to motherhood, like when they are stuck in traffic trying to get home, or when their mother-in-law makes a disparaging remark about their housekeeping.
  • Postpartum rage can feel like a seething, simmering feeling. Or it can feel like an explosion.
  • You may feel out of control, physically and mentally.
  • You may find yourself yelling or even feel the impulse to hurt your partner or your baby.

If you have any concern about acting on these violent impulses, it’s important to seek emergency mental health help right away; call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

Causes of Postpartum Rage

The University of British Columbia researchers not only examined the prevalence of postpartum rage, but also some of its causes. They weren’t sure if depression is what caused the anger, or vice versa, but they did not a clear correlation between the two.

“Some theorists have speculated that people may be angered by their circumstances, and when things don’t change some people may lapse into depression,” said Ou. “With postpartum depression and anger, we don’t necessarily know which came first—the depression or the anger—but we ought to look at whether mothers are feeling angry or experiencing both anger and depression.”

Ou and Hall found some common themes among women experience postpartum rage that are worth nothing, and may help explain what causes postpartum rage in certain women:

  • Many women describe feelings of powerlessness as part of their anger and rage.
  • They experience a mismatch between what they expected of motherhood and what it ends up actually being like.
  • Mothers feel unheard; what they expected in terms of postpartum support has not materialized.
  • They feel judgment from others about their parenting choices (breastfeeding vs. formula, for example).
  • They feel let down by friends, family members, and healthcare providers.

Getting Help for Postpartum Rage

One of the most difficult aspects of postpartum rage is the shame many women feel about experiencing these feelings. After all, anger is often not an acceptable feeling for women to have or express, leading many women to hide the fact that they are bubbling over with feelings of rage. They may also be concerned that these feelings mean they are a terrible mother—or even that if they share these feelings with others, their baby will be taken away.

These are common feelings among women who experience postpartum depression and rage, and it’s important to understand that these doubts, fears, and shame are not your fault: they are simply symptoms of disorder itself.

It’s also vital to recognize that your feelings of anger might be a signal that you are feeling overwhelmed and unsupported in motherhood, and that it’s okay if you are feeling resentful about that fact.

The first step in seeking help for postpartum depression and postpartum rage is to recognize your symptoms and feelings as something that needs and deserves attention. You might start by sharing your feelings with a close friend or your partner. Just sharing and venting your feelings will begin to help you feel better and less out of control.

After that, you’ll want to make an appointment with your OB-GYN, midwife, or primary care doctor, or a psychiatrist or licensed therapist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders. Don’t worry: No one is going to think you are “crazy” for feeling like you do. These professionals see many women who suffer from postpartum mood disorders and their main goal is to help you feel better.

Treatment Options

Common treatment for postpartum depression and postpartum rage include:

  • Psychotherapy and counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotropic drugs, such anti-depressants

Once you are in treatment for postpartum depression and rage, there are some other complimentary practices you can try to manage your feelings and to help you lead a more balanced and happier life as a mom.

  • Ask a trusted relative or good friend to help you care for your baby so you can take some needed breaks.
  • Prioritize sleep in whatever way you can. Sleep is just going to be hard when you have a baby, but you can make sure to go to sleep early, sleep in on the weekends if your partner can take the baby, or nap when your baby naps.
  • Get outside with your baby. Just a short stroll down the block is good for both of you and can help you release and manage some of your feelings.
  • Pare down on unimportant tasks. You just had a baby. You don’t have to be “on” all the time, have a perfectly clean house, or meet social obligations like you once did. Give yourself time to get back in the swing of things.
  • Try to understand what your “rage triggers” are so that you can be more mindful of the times you might find yourself spiraling into feelings of anger.
  • Perhaps these triggers are situations that can be remedied as well. Maybe your partner can pitch in more with the baby; maybe unfollowing “picture perfect” images of motherhood on social media will be healing. Do what works for you.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing intense feelings of rage in the weeks and months after you had a baby, you are not alone. Although not everyone who experiences postpartum rages talks about it, so many mothers are experiencing it as a symptom of postpartum depression. It is, in fact, a very common symptom, but one that few women know about and that many feel ashamed of sharing.

The good news is that more and more mothers are talking about this. Multiple first-person accounts of postpartum rage have been published in the media. More research into postpartum rage needs to be done, but it is happening and will continue. Healthcare providers are starting to ask mothers about their feelings of anger and rage—and taking these symptoms seriously as they diagnose and treat postpartum depression and rage.

Remember that feeling rage postpartum doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you human, and if your rage is feeling out of control and you are experiencing other signs of postpartum depression, help is out there for you.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. C Ou, W Hall. Anger in the context of postnatal depression: An integrative review. Birth. 2018;45(4):336-346. doi:10.1111/birt.12356

Additional Reading

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.