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Why Am I So Angry After Having a Baby?




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

Expert reviewed by Jen Jordan, Board Certified Medical Doctor

I haven’t been shy that my first postpartum experience was quite difficult… beginning with a difficult recovery from a long and traumatic labor, followed by a host of health issues in the weeks and months that followed. Aside from anxiety, I sometimes felt a sense of anger come over me, oftentimes out of nowhere. I didn’t think much of it at the time, attributing it to the irrational anxiety and overwhelm I was experiencing. After the fact, I came to understand this feeling was postpartum rage.

Postpartum rage is an intense, often unexpected emotional response that can occur in the weeks or even months following childbirth. This condition, which is much stronger than simple irritability, can make new mothers feel sudden, uncontrolled anger often triggered by no apparent reason. Postpartum rage is not a character flaw or a sign of weakness. It's a serious condition that's linked to postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression or anxiety.

Becoming a mom for me revealed a large gap in prenatal and postpartum care. There is little information and minimal support available during this period, leaving mothers grappling with transformative challenges without adequate resources. My personal struggles and conversations with other moms led to the realization that many share similar experiences in silence. For expert insights, I'm turning to family medicine physician, Dr. Jen Jordan, MD, of Bloom After Baby to help break down the intricacies of postpartum rage.

how to manage postpartum rage

What Is Postpartum Rage?

Dr. Jordan explains that postpartum rage is a mood disruption that many women experience after childbirth. It goes beyond simple anger and frustration, presenting as a particularly intense emotional state. Describing postpartum rage, Dr. Jordan says, “The term describes intense and overwhelming feelings of frustration, agitation, anger, and aggression, with uncharacteristic impulsive and explosive behaviors or outbursts.” While a new mom, exhausted and overwhelmed after giving birth, might snap at her partner for not lowering the toilet seat, a mom experiencing postpartum rage may escalate the situation, explosively yelling and screaming at her partner.

How Does It Affect New Moms?

Postpartum rage can deeply affect new mothers, often leading to feelings of guilt, confusion, and isolation. It can strain relationships with partners, children, and other family members, and cause self-doubt about one's ability to be a good parent. The persistent, intense anger and irritability can interfere with the mother's ability to bond with her baby, leading to a cycle of guilt and increased rage. Additionally, it may prevent the new mother from enjoying motherhood and lead to avoidance of social interactions, which can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and distress. It is important to remember that these are symptoms of a condition, not reflections of the individual's personality or mothering capabilities.

The Difference Between Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and Rage

Dr. Jordan explains that postpartum rage isn't a distinct perinatal mood disorder and rather can be a sign of an underlying mood disorder such as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. 

Postpartum depression (PPD) is often characterized by feelings of extreme sadness, apathy, and exhaustion. Mothers with PPD might have trouble performing daily tasks, including caring for their baby, and may feel disconnected or uninterested in their new child. Those with a history of depression may be more prone to experiencing PPD.

Postpartum anxiety (PPA), on the other hand, is characterized by excessive worry, restlessness, and feelings of being on edge. Mothers with PPA often have racing thoughts and may struggle with insomnia. They may constantly worry about their baby's health or safety, or about their own capabilities as a mother.

While all three conditions share some commonalities, such as their potential to hinder a mother's ability to bond with her baby, they each present their unique set of symptoms. Dr. Jordan adds, ” It’s important to note, however, that postpartum rage and anger frequently occur in women who are not experiencing other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.” Recognizing these differences is essential in understanding and appropriately treating each condition.

the difference between postpartum depression, anxiety and rage

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

Dr. Jordan explains that symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety and rage can present similarly but there are some important differences. Postpartum depression and anxiety both have continuous symptoms, usually persisting beyond two weeks, and significantly affects daily functioning. She says, “PPD is marked by feelings of hopelessness, sadness, tearfulness, fatigue, difficulty bonding with baby or indifference. ” On the other hand, “PPA is characterized by persistent worry, frequent checking, intrusive thoughts, irritability, and feeling on edge,” Dr. Jordan adds. While one may experience anger or rage with PPD and PPA, these emotions can also manifest independently of an underlying mood disorder.

It is important to mention that postpartum rage can be a sign of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Dr. Jordan emphasizes that it also occurs in women who do not meet clinical criteria for perinatal mood conditions. She emphasizes, “Postpartum rage is thought to be a highly social emotion and closely related to relationships and societal factors, like feeling a sense of powerlessness, unmet needs, lack of support, or unfulfilled expectations.”

How Long Will I Feel This Way?

The duration of postpartum rage can vary significantly among individuals, as is influenced by several factors including hormonal fluctuations, personal stress levels, and support structures. While it's common for new mothers to experience mood swings and heightened emotions due to hormone changes after childbirth, postpartum rage is more intense and may persist for weeks or even months if left untreated.

According to Dr. Jordan, there isn't a precise timeline for experiencing postpartum rage, as symptoms can potentially arise at any point from pregnancy through the first year postpartum. If a woman exhibits these symptoms without a perinatal mood disorder, they are likely to be acute and irregular, linked to lifestyle and psychological changes.

Causes of Postpartum Rage and Anger

Dr. Jordan clarifies that there isn't one cause of postpartum rage. Physical, lifestyle, and psychological changes can contribute to these extreme mood and emotional changes.

The following are changes that occur post-baby:

Physical changes:

  1. Hormonal shifts
  2. Neurochemical changes
  3. Structural brain changes 
  4. Over-activation of the body’s “flight or fight” response

Lifestyle changes:

  1. Lack of sleep
  2. Stress of caring for a newborn

Psychological changes:

  1. Feelings of unmet needs or feeling trapped or powerless
  2. Feelings of disappointment related to motherhood and unmet/unrealistic expectations

Dr. Jordan explains that although these changes can contribute to mood disturbances, postpartum rage is also a distress signal, communicating to our body and mind telling us that we need more support.

Causes of postpartum rage and anger

Coping Strategies for Postpartum Rage

Dr. Jordan emphasizes that understanding and acknowledging postpartum rage is the first step. Here are some strategies that can help manage and reduce postpartum rage:

  1. Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care is crucial. This can involve finding time for rest, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity. These actions can promote hormonal balance and help manage mood swings.
  2. Support System: Lean on a support network. Sharing feelings with trusted family members, friends, or new mothers' groups.
  3. Mindfulness Techniques: Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm, helping to manage symptoms of rage.
  4. Professional Help: Seek professional help if symptoms persist. Counselors or therapists specializing in postpartum issues can provide valuable guidance and strategies for coping with postpartum rage.
  5. Medication: In some cases, medication might be necessary. Always consult with a healthcare provider to discuss risks and benefits.
  6. Sleep: Prioritize sleep. This may involve enlisting help from partners, family members, or a postpartum doula to allow for regular sleep intervals.
  7. Acceptance: It's important to acknowledge emotions without judgment and guilt. Postpartum rage is a common occurrence and not a reflection of one's abilities as a mother.
coping strategies for postpartum rage

Self-Care Tips for New Moms

Self-care is integral for new moms, especially when it comes to mitigating the risk of postpartum rage. Here are some tips:

  1. Stay Active: Regular physical activity can reduce stress and improve your mood. Even a short walk with the stroller can make a difference.
  2. Healthy Eating: Nutrient-dense foods can help replenish your body and keep your energy levels stable. Consider easy snacks and meals that will fuel recovery.
  3. Hydrate: Drinking enough water is essential for your overall health and can also influence your mood and energy levels.
  4. Rest: Sleep can be hard to come by with a new baby, but try to rest when your baby sleeps and don't be afraid to ask for help.
  5. Socialize: Try to maintain your social life. Connecting with friends, family, or joining a new moms' group can provide a much-needed emotional lift.
  6. Time for Yourself: Make sure to have some “me-time” regularly. It could be a relaxing bath, reading a book, or indulging in any activity that you enjoy and relaxes you.

Therapies and Treatment Options for Postpartum Rage

Postpartum rage can be managed effectively through a combination of therapies and treatment strategies. Dr. Jordan says, “First-line therapy options include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices.” If you feel like these aren't effective, consider speaking to your healthcare provider about medications. 

Here are some therapy options to consider;

  1. Psychotherapy: Also referred to as talk therapy, it provides a safe space to discuss feelings and concerns related to postpartum rage. Therapists can provide helpful coping mechanisms and strategies to manage anger and stress.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of therapy can be particularly useful since it helps identify and appropriately respond to negative thought patterns that may contribute to feelings of rage.
  3. Therapy Support Groups: Joining a support group for new mothers can provide a sense of community and shared understanding. It's a platform where experiences can be shared, and practical advice can be gained from others who have been in similar situations.
  4. Physical Activity: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood by boosting the production of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters.
  5. Mindfulness Techniques: Practices like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga can help regulate emotions and maintain a calm mindset.

How to Get Help for Postpartum Rage and Anger

For individuals struggling with postpartum rage, several resources can provide support and assistance. Reach out to professionals who specialize in maternal mental health, such as medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists who are experienced in postpartum and perinatal care. They can guide you towards appropriate treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.

Dr. Jordan suggests that women should first contact their OBGYN or PCP who can perform specific screening tests to help coordinate further care. Other suggested resources include:

  1. Postpartum Support International (PSI)
  2. Bloom After Baby – a digital support space offering free resources via social media, podcasts, and online courses

Bloom After Baby‘s mission is to provide comprehensive education and a supportive community, demystifying the transformations of motherhood for a path of resilience and growth. For more on postpartum, check out the postpartum section of my blog, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram.



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