Postpartum Rage in Motherhood: What to Know and What Can Help?

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Lauren Hays

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, PMHNP

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Postpartum Rage in Motherhood: What to Know and What Can Help?

What is Postpartum Rage?

Are you experiencing extreme anger and irritability during the postpartum period? Do you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by “out of body” anger, snapping at your loved ones, and then feeling weighed down by shame? You may be dealing with postpartum rage, and let me assure you, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, mama!

Postpartum rage refers to intense anger and irritability that can occur in the postpartum period. Often, these bouts of rage are not given enough attention during screening because they are overshadowed by more commonly associated symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, such as excessive crying, sadness, and hopelessness. However, it’s important to note that anger is a common symptom among new parents experiencing postpartum mental health challenges. Causes of postpartum rage are vast and complex, but can be partially attributed to by societal pressures and expectations, invisible burdens, and notions of motherhood that create unrealistic expectations and puts new mothers under extreme pressure in a time that already makes new moms vulnerable to mental health challenges. It is crucial to recognize that mom rage (or postpartum rage) is different from regular anger, and experiencing feelings of rage don’t make you an angry mom. Postpartum rage isn’t an official diagnosis itself, but is often a sign or presentation of postpartum depression or anxiety. Postpartum rage may also be exacerbated by exhaustion, overwhelming emotions, and lack of sleep that are often synonymous with (ahem) new motherhood.

How Common is Postpartum Rage?

Postpartum rage is a commonly overlooked aspect of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, which affect a significant proportion of women (over 20%). While it may be tricky to identify, as it does not fit the traditional depressive symptom profile, postpartum anger and rage have been associated with postpartum depression and can indicate underlying mood disorders. Though research on postpartum rage is limited, it is a prevalent manifestation of postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression. Symptoms of postpartum rage may include extreme irritability, anger, or outbursts directed towards loved ones. It is crucial to remember that experiencing postpartum anger does not make you a bad mother or incapable of managing your emotions. It is a normal and shared experience that can be effectively managed with the right support and treatment. At The Matrescence®, our primary goal is to create a safe and supportive peer support group for mothers, where you can share your experiences and access the necessary resources to navigate this challenging period and find healing. Remember, you’re not alone, and you’re not an angry mama.

mom with child overwhelmed

Why You Might Be Experiencing Postpartum Rage

Many people find it hard to relate to a word that feels so opposite of the maternal emotions they anticipated feeling. “Rage” feels so abrasive to the words we are “supposed” to feel, yet it is a common experience among new mothers and it’s time we talk about it so that instead of feeling shame, people can feel empowered with the tools to overcome this emotion and feel more like themselves. While hormones do play a role, there is so much more at play that make the postpartum period the perfect storm to increase your risk of experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. The overwhelming societal pressures and expectations placed on new moms can lead to feelings of frustration and inadequacy. The mental load of caring for a new baby can be incredibly taxing, leaving little energy or patience for anything else. And let’s not forget about the impact of sleep deprivation, which can turn even the calmest individual into someone they don’t recognize. To make matters worse, many new moms face a lack of support from their partners, family, and friends, making these challenges even more daunting. It’s crucial to acknowledge that postpartum rage is a genuine and valid experience for countless women, and they deserve access to the resources and support they need to navigate this experience and to determine the best treatment. 

Lack of Support System

Becoming a new mom can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when it comes to navigating the complex emotions that can come with it. One issue that is often overlooked and can contribute to the development of postpartum mood and anxiety symptoms, including postpartum rage, is the lack of a healthy support system.

This is particularly true for transplants or those who have moved to a new area without a network of friends or family nearby. Where we once literally raised children in villages surrounded by family, this is often no longer the case and it is harder to find the “village” everyone talks about.  In some communities, it can be hard to connect with other moms on a meaningful level, leading to feelings of isolation and frustration. Finding mom friends who can relate to your experiences and provide emotional support can be crucial in preventing and managing postpartum rage. We understand how important it is to feel seen, heard, and supported during this transformative time in your life and want to be a pillar of support and your “digital village” of mom friends to celebrate both the joys and trials of the postpartum period.

mom folding baby laundry

Previous or Underlying Mental Health Concerns

Postpartum rage is a complex condition that can have various contributing factors to its development. Recent studies indicate that women with pre-existing mental health concerns are at a higher risk. However, it’s important to note that postpartum rage can affect any woman, regardless of their mental health history. Multiple contributing factors can increase vulnerability, including a history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, a traumatic birth experience, lack of social support, and sleep deprivation. We understand the importance of recognizing and addressing various risk factors for effective treatment and support, and we offer thoughtful and tailored resources to help you feel in control and supported.  Understanding what causes postpartum rage can empower women and families to navigate this condition, recognize the signs of postpartum depression or anxiety, and find the support they need for themselves or a loved one. 

Traumatic Birth Experience

A traumatic experience giving birth can have a significant impact on a mother’s well-being, both physically and emotionally. Such experiences can contribute to the development of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, causing mothers to experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects of trauma can be debilitating and long-lasting, leaving mothers feeling unable to process and heal from their experiences. We understand the importance of addressing the psychological impact of childbirth and provide a safe and supportive space for new mothers to explore and heal from their trauma and connect with additional resources if needed. It is crucial to educate new mothers and healthcare professionals about the impact of traumatic birth experiences to ensure the best possible outcomes for maternal mental health and well-being.
mom lying on bed with newborn and two dogs exhausted

Sleep Deprivation

Adjusting to life with a new baby is no easy feat, and one of the biggest challenges that new moms face is the pervasive sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn. This lack of sleep can contribute to a range of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. When a new mother is exhausted and overwhelmed, it can be difficult to control emotions and maintain a sense of calm in the face of stressors both big and small. Hormonal changes also play a significant role in postpartum mental health, and the combination of sleep deprivation and hormonal imbalance can be a volatile one, sometimes contributing to the development of postpartum rage. Despite this, many new mothers suffer in silence, worrying that they are alone in their struggles. By understanding and addressing the link between sleep deprivation and postpartum mood disorders, we can better support new mothers and help them navigate this challenging time.

Symptoms of Postpartum Rage

Postpartum rage, a frequently misunderstood phenomenon, is primarily characterized by a mood disruption that causes intense anger that is out of character. While education surrounding PMAD’s often focuses on stereotypical depression and anxiety symptoms, we believe you should always know that these conditions can manifest in various ways, especially in the postpartum period. Depression is commonly associated with sadness and a tendency to cry, while anxiety is known for heightened worry and restlessness. However, it is important to understand that anger, or what is commonly referred to as “rage,” can also be a prevalent symptom in both depression and anxiety during the postpartum period. It is relatively uncommon to observe anger alongside these conditions under normal circumstances, which is a reason it is often overlooked as a contributing symptom.

The symptoms of postpartum rage can vary. Some of the commonly observed signs include:

  • Reacting aggressively or “snapping” in situations where you typically wouldn’t.
  • Feeling the urge to shout or scream at others.
  • Engaging in physical acts of aggression, such as punching objects or slamming doors.
  • Fixating on a situation or event for an extended period.
  • Losing control of your temper.
  • Exhibiting verbal outbursts or increased yelling and swearing.
  • Experiencing extreme irritability, frustration, or a constant feeling of being “on edge.”
  • Feeling overwhelmed and struggling to manage your emotions.

If you are dealing with postpartum rage, it is normal to feel angry, irritable, and frustrated. Some individuals describe it as a constant boiling of emotions, or an intense desire to yell and release frustration by acting in ways that are uncharacteristic for them and commonly directed at their husband or partner.

Is It Postpartum Rage?

As a new mom or busy mother preparing to return to work, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions. However, if you find yourself feeling intense anger or irritability that is difficult to control, it’s possible that you may be experiencing postpartum rage. Rage is a sign that, if persistent and out of character, can be an indicator of an underlying disorder like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. It’s important to know that postpartum rage is not a reflection of your character or ability to parent. It’s a complex combination of chemical & hormonal imbalance and personal factors that can be treated with a combination of therapy, medication, and self-care.

If you’re experiencing intense and severe outbursts of anger, difficulty sleeping, or feel like you may harm yourself or your child, it’s essential that you seek professional help immediately.

Differentiating Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is characterized by feelings of:

  • sadness
  • hopelessness
  • extreme fatigue

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can interfere with a woman’s ability to function on a daily basis. Other symptoms of postpartum depression may include:

  • a loss of interest in activities
  • difficulty sleeping
  • changes in appetite
  • irritability (hey postpartum rage!)
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety is a common experience for new mothers and can also be overlooked and undertreated. Mothers may experience a broad range of symptoms related to their anxiety, such as:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • increased worrying, racing thoughts
  • overwhelming feelings of fear and dread
  • intrusive thoughts
overwhelmed mom sitting on pillow covering her face

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare yet severe mental health disorder that occurs within a few weeks after giving birth. It is considered a medical emergency. Unlike other postpartum mental health disorders, such as postpartum depression or anxiety, postpartum psychosis involves symptoms such as:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • erratic behaviors

Though rare, it is crucial for new mothers and their loved ones to be aware of the risks and to seek immediate help if necessary. Call 988 or go to your local emergency room immediately if you or a loved one are experiencing signs of postpartum psychosis. 

Treatment Options & Ways to Cope with Postpartum Rage

You may be struggling with many new emotions and feelings as you navigate this new chapter, but it is important to discuss your symptoms with a trusted provider who can help identify your individual contributing factors and to properly screen and assess for any underlying mental health disorders. Oftentimes, your OBGYN or midwife will be your first point of contact and can help you identify and explore various treatment options or resources. You may be referred to a mental health professional who can provide therapy or medication if warranted. Although you may occasionally experience rage without an underlying mental health condition, it is important to be screened for postpartum mental health disorders and to keep track of the symptoms since it can sometimes be present alongside postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders. According to research, up to 75% of women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders never receive appropriate treatment. We believe that you should always know where to turn if you’re experience a postpartum problem so that you don’t go weeks and months without support. As part of The Matrescence® community, we will help you navigate various resources that exist in your area to help you heal. You’re not alone in this journey, and resources are available to help you navigate this challenging phase. Remember, caring for your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being.

Build Your Mom Community

Our community was built with you in mind, mama. After personal encounters with various manifestations of postpartum mental health challenges, we created The Matrescence® to be your digital motherhood village, to educate you and empower you along the way, and to give you a safe space to meet others walking alongside you. We built it with what we wish we would have had in the forefront of our minds and we hope it is exactly what you need to navigate the joys and the trials of motherhood. We are so proud of you for being here and hope that you will join our community of incredible mothers inside The Matrescence® community + app. 

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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.

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