Postpartum Rage Symptoms: Here’s What to Look for Mama

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Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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Motherhood & Postpartum Rage Symptoms: Here’s What to Look for Mama

Hey mamas, let’s talk about a topic that’s common, but not often discussed: postpartum rage. Yep, you heard it—rage. It might sound a bit intense, but it’s a real thing many new moms face. You may even feel a sense of relief knowing there is a word for what you’re experiencing! Also known as “uncharacteristically intense postpartum anger,” postpartum rage is complex and can feel really lonely and overwhelming. But remember, you’re definitely not going through this alone! Navigating the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the process of becoming a mother—or matrescence—can be tough, especially when the emotions feel confusing or conflicting to what you thought you might feel. If you find yourself suddenly snapping or feeling extremely angry, know that it’s a common emotion in the postpartum period called postpartum rage and there is help out there. Let’s start talking about this and break the stigma around experience with postpartum rage and instead give mothers and families the education and support they need to heal. If you’re feeling more than just a little overwhelmed and irritable after giving birth, you might be experiencing this condition. In this blog post, we’ll unpack the signs of postpartum rage, why it might be happening to you, how to differentiate various postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and the steps you can take to cope with these intense emotions and irritability. 

The Most Common Symptoms of "Postpartum Rage" (as told by real moms)

  • Screaming or swearing more often, or just feeling the urge to do so
  • Difficulty controlling your temper or lashing out; intense anger outburst
  • Punching objects (like your steering wheel), throwing things, or slamming doors
  • Dwelling on a situation or event for longer than you typically would
  • Feeling unable to cope with your emotions
  • Feeling a flood of emotions after any of the above, including shame
postpartum rage symptoms

You May Also Experience

  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Negative feelings or little interest in your baby
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness

It is important to discuss these feelings with your OBGYN or a mental health professional and to be adequately screened for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’s), as postpartum rage may also be an indicator of an underlying mood disorder. 

It’s Not Your Fault, Mama - What Causes Postpartum Rage?

Although postpartum rage isn’t in the official diagnostic and statistical manual of psychiatric disorders and isn’t typically listed with traditional depressive symptoms, we are learning that it is a relatively common symptom women experience in the postpartum period and is often an indicator that they may be experiencing a postpartum mood disorder or may be at risk for developing one. Since postpartum is a vulnerable time for mental health struggles, it is important to understand the various manifestations and factors that play a role in their development and to understand treatment and support options. 

Hormone Levels

After having a baby, your body goes through some massive hormonal changes that can really effect your mood. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone levels taking a massive nosedive, which can leave you feeling like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Mood swings, anxiety, and feeling easily irritated? Intense shifts in hormones might be the culprit.  Here’s the thing: these hormonal shifts can throw your brain’s neurotransmitters out of whack; couple that with sleep deprivation and other stressors that are common in the postpartum period– and that can lead to mood disruption that causes intense anger and rage. It’s like adding fuel to the fire when you factor in the crazy amount of stress, lack of sleep, and the 24/7 demands of caring for a newborn. It’s no wonder that so many new moms experience postpartum rage episodes! It is important to understand these factors and what differentiates transient struggles from a more serious condition that might warrant treatment, such as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.  But here’s what you need to know: you’re not alone, and these feelings are a very common part of the postpartum experience. It can happen in isolation and you can experience rage without a  PMAD, but there are links between experiencing postpartum rage alongside postpartum depression, so it is important to understand your risk factors and different treatment for postpartum rage.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for support and discuss your symptoms with your doctor if you’re struggling. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your little one.

Family History of Depression or Anxiety

Knowing your family health history is very important! Family history of depression and anxiety increase your risk in the potential development of mental health conditions, including perinatal mood disorders like postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Notably, while individuals cannot alter their genetic makeup, understanding this risk can encourage the implementation of preventative measures and strategies to put support pillars in place when a new baby is on the way. Just because your family member experienced postpartum depression doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely develop this disorder, but arming yourself with this information can empower you to better understand your risk factors and serve an important role in your postpartum experience. Ultimately, recognizing the powerful interplay between genetics and environment facilitates better support systems and outcomes for those who may be vulnerable to PMADs, including postpartum rage.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation, a common challenge for new parents, can exacerbate feelings of irritability and feelings of rage. The adjustment to a new identity and the responsibilities of caring for a newborn can also be overwhelming, leading to anger and irritability. Recognizing these triggers can be the first step towards addressing and managing the intense emotions associated with postpartum rage. It is important to discuss and create a plan with your support system to help mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation and to understand the role in postpartum that sleep has on overall  resilience to postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

The Perfect Storm of Life Changes

From the physical changes in your body to the upheaval in your daily routines and the evolution of your personal identity, the postpartum period can create stress and overwhelm (right alongside the joys!). This perfect storm tests the resilience of even the most robust emotional foundations.  You might also be experiencing feelings of resentment at your partner if life might seemingly be ‘back to normal’ for them.  It’s important to understand that it does not make you a bad or unfit mother if you are experiencing symptoms of a mood disorder. It shows great insight to recognize these changes in mood and to have the support pillars in place to determine the best treatment for you. 

What You Can Do if You Might Be Experiencing Postpartum Rage

Build Your Support Network

Surrounding yourself with a support network is crucial. You know that village they talk about? We need that. It may not look like a traditional village of aunts and maternal figures surrounding us, it may be neighbors and friends on the internet supporting us. Although there are various causes of postpartum rage, one common theme is that women feel overwhelmed and under-supported. They feel like they have no one they feel safe talking to. No one to share resources with and vulnerable conversations. Whether it’s your partner, family, close friends, or an online community– having a listening ear or an extra pair of hands can make a significant difference. Putting this in place as a preventative measure and identifying your “people” before you are in the thick of it can be a lifeline in coping with postpartum rage!

Give yourself a break

Self-care isn’t selfish—it’s an essential part of managing your well-being. Find moments in the day to relax and recharge, even if it’s just a five-minute meditation or a short walk. We know it can be overwhelming to fit self-care in when you’re already feeling tapped out, but bringing yourself back to the present and doing something for you can help ward off feelings of rage and depression and can keep your cup from running dry.

Set Realistic Expectations

Understand that it’s okay not to be the perfect parent, because those don’t exist! Give yourself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them without harsh self-judgment. There is not a perfect way to be a mother, but there are a million ways to be a really good one. People with postpartum rage often feel like they are failing, but this is not the case! You may just need a little more support and with the right resources in place, you will start to feel more like yourself!

Schedule 'Me Time'

Make sure to schedule time that’s just for you, where you can step away from your mom duties and enjoy an activity you love or simply rest to help you feel like yourself again. Rage can be a sign of overwhelm and running on empty– small, micro-moments of time for yourself can make a huge difference. This may be asking a friend to watch your baby so that you can do a breathing exercise or take a hot shower and read for a few minutes. Remember, you are in a season of receiving and you too will be able to give back in ways that felt meaningful to you someday.

Treatment Options For Postpartum Rage

Postpartum Rage isn’t an official diagnosis. Seeking support and treatment is an important step for mothers experiencing rage in the postpartum period and help is available. It’s important to open up about your experience with a trusted provider so they can determine if these feelings of anger are symptoms of a postpartum mental health condition. This may include speaking with a healthcare provider about:

  • Different therapy options and professionals that exist to serve moms.  A provider that is certified by Postpartum Support International is a great place to start.  The Matrescence® Marketplace makes it easy to find trusted providers, download our free app to find someone in your area!
  • Medication options, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) for addressing an underlying postpartum mood disorder, including postpartum depression and anxiety.
  • Joining peer support groups where experiences can be shared in a safe and understanding environment. You’re not alone, mama! There is a community out there for you.
  • Finding a therapist; Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown effectiveness in helping individuals manage their anger by teaching strategies to identify and change thought patterns that lead to rage.
  • Lifestyle adjustments such as incorporating regular physical activity, ensuring adequate sleep, and practicing mindfulness techniques can play a supportive role in managing emotions.

It’s important for mothers to remember postpartum rage may feel scary but with the right support you will feel better. Seeking help is a sign of strength and the first step towards recovery and to help them feel more like themselves. 

Accepting Your Feelings so you can Cope with Postpartum Rage

Acknowledging and accepting your feelings is a vital step. They do not define you as a mother or a person, and there’s no shame in needing help. Postpartum rage can feel isolating, but it is not uncommon. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking support, you’re taking the first steps towards managing and, over time, conquering this part of postpartum. Remember that you are not alone, and that there’s a path forward to the joyful, fulfilling motherhood you deserve.

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Picture of Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren Hays, PMHNP

Lauren was a licensed and trained registered nurse in the NICU and has since made a career shift to focus on mental health. Lauren is now a board certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, focusing on women’s health and wellness. She is a mom of three precious little men who has turned her pain into passion.

mother with eyes closed pressing her face up against her infant to calm her anxious feelings

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