Postpartum rage and anger are common after giving birth, although it is not widely acknowledged or discussed. Many parents report an increase in angry outbursts or distressing thoughts, which can negatively impact important relationships and feel overwhelming to manage. Sometimes, help from a professional mental health expert is needed.
What Is Postpartum Rage?
Postpartum rage is one of the symptoms of postpartum depression, a perinatal mood/anxiety disorder (PMAD), that’s more severe than baby blues in duration and severity. It’s estimated that about 22% of women experience postpartum depression, which makes this the most common complication from childbirth.1
It’s also known that men and other non-birth parents can experience postpartum depression as well, although it is not known exactly how commonly this occurs as non-birth parents are not usually screened for postpartum depression. While anger and irritability are common symptoms of postpartum depression, they’re sometimes overlooked because women (and other parents) are often discouraged from expressing their anger.2
How Long Does Postpartum Rage Last?
While it’s normal to seek a timeline for when you’ll feel more like yourself again, the timeline is completely dependent on the individual, their risk factors, and whether or not they need professional help. Although there is no reliable recovery timeline, it is important to remember PMADs are temporary and treatable.
Symptoms of Postpartum Rage
Postpartum anger and rage can be distressing for the person experiencing it and those in their support network. Many parents are shocked by the angry feelings, outbursts, and/or thoughts that accompany postpartum rage. They may feel guilty because of how an outburst impacted a loved one or shame because society often views anger in women negatively.
Symptoms of postpartum rage are:
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Violent thoughts or urges toward loved ones
- Increased screaming or swearing
- Feeling out of control
- Physical outbursts, such as punching or throwing things
- Feeling angry about small things that are unrelated to parenthood (such as traffic, interactions with strangers, etc.)
- Feeling angry or resentful when having to take care of baby
- Feeling unable to “move on” after experiencing something that made you angry
Risk Factors For Postpartum Anger
While the actual cause for postpartum anger and depression is typically a combination of biology, genetic predisposition to depression, psychology, and environment, there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing postpartum anger.3 These risk factors can impact the duration and intensity of postpartum rage and depression, as well as whether or not professional treatment is needed.
Causes of postpartum anger are:
- Feeling overwhelmed or burnt out as a new mom or parent
- Parenthood is stressful or difficult and not what you thought it would look like (i.e., not instinctual)
- Feeling unheard or unseen
- Feeling like you don’t have adequate support
- Feeling judged by others about how you are parenting
- Difficult care adjustments (e.g., breastfeeding complications, baby refusing to sleep, colic, etc.)
- Feeling isolated or lonely
- A stressful, complicated, or traumatic delivery
Who Are Common Targets of Postpartum Anger & Irritability?
Unfortunately, the most common targets of postpartum rage and anger are loved ones. The high proximity and time spent with these loved ones increases the probability of them witnessing and becoming the target of angry outbursts associated with postpartum anger and rage.
In many cases, the new parent’s partner is one of the most involved persons in the day-to-day care of the baby, which means they are highly likely to be present for the stressful moments that trigger an angry outburst. Since they are also the other adult typically most responsible for helping care for and raise the baby, they can feel like the safest person to share difficult, angry feelings with.
Unfortunately, other children can become the target of postpartum rage. To an already tired parent, an older child’s needs/bids for attention can feel like an unfillable request on top of a newborn’s needs. In some cases, this can trigger an angry outburst.
Grandparents are another adult support system that can easily become a target of angry outbursts. Sometimes this is because of the grandparents’ expectations/opinions on the child’s care, or simply because the parent might view them as a parent that should have the ability to understand the stress of a newborn.
8 Ways to Cope With Postpartum Rage
While new parent or “mom rage” can feel overwhelming and defeating for any type of parent, there are things that you can do to manage your outbursts and improve your mental health. Tips include engaging with support groups, relying on friends or family, boosting your coping skills, and if necessary, seeking a therapist.
Eight ways to cope with postpartum rage are:
- Engage with postpartum support groups: this helps moms and other parents feel validated and know they’re not alone. Support groups are also a great source of inspiration for ways to manage postpartum anger.
- Lean on your support network: leaning on your support network is important to give yourself a break and relieve some of the pressures of parenthood.
- Boost your coping skills: practicing and increasing your ability to engage with coping skills like intentional deep breathing, grounding, and mindfulness can help you to intentionally manage angry feelings.
- Try meditation: meditation is the act of quieting your inner stress through intentional focus. Regularly engaging in meditation introduces a sense of calm. It also decreases emotional reactivity, which can have a huge impact on decreasing the frequency and intensity of postpartum rage outbursts.
- Express your anger in a healthy way: anger is a human experience, which makes it unavoidable. Finding a healthy way to channel your anger (such as engaging in physical exercise or setting boundaries) acknowledges your feeling and gives you a way to work through that emotion in a positive way.
- Learn anger management skills: working through how to identify, label, and channel anger aren’t skills many people are raised with. Working through different anger management skills to figure out what works best for you can help.
- Identify your triggers: once you feel more centered, reflect on what was happening right before the outburst. Was it something your partner said or something that happened? Understanding your triggers will help you communicate, figure out how to fill an unmet need, and ultimately help you manage future outbursts.
- Remember that you are not alone: while this seems small, feeling isolated and alone can make postpartum anger even more stressful. Acknowledging that this is real and has happened to others can relieve some of the shame and stigma you might be carrying, which can reduce the intensity of your feelings.
Treatment For Postpartum Rage
If you are struggling to function normally and do necessary tasks, it might be time to seek professional help. It can be hugely beneficial to work through postpartum depression and postpartum rage with a therapist. Understanding what type of therapy is another important consideration.
If you’re ready to find a therapist, explore an online therapist directory to locate a professional who is right for you.
Common treatment approaches are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT has been shown to be more effective than antidepressants alone, which is an important consideration for mothers who want to avoid medication due to breastfeeding.4
- Interpersonal psychotherapy: IPT is another effective treatment approach for treating postpartum depression. This modality can include the partner and can also be provided in group settings.5
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is an effective option to consider if trauma was experienced related to pregnancy or birth, such as health complications or a complicated/traumatic delivery.
- Medication: if you’re experiencing severe postpartum depression, psychotherapy approaches alone may not be enough. Although postpartum depression can be managed with psychotherapy, antidepressant medications for anger, such as SSRIs or SNRIs, may be necessary in some cases.
Final Thoughts On Postpartum Anger
Postpartum rage and anger can feel disorienting and stressful for you and your loved ones, but there are many ways to manage and cope. Engaging in support groups and with your support network, boosting your own personal skills, and seeking professional help are all great options to help you start feeling more like yourself again.