What is postpartum anger? Maybe we’ve heard about postpartum depression or postpartum depletion, but not as much is known about postpartum anger. A relatively new study from the University of British Columbia (2018) has shown that mothers that have postpartum depression are also more likely to experience postpartum anger.
If you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression, find out more in our FREE Guide and take the quiz.
Anger is a known part of postpartum depression and anxiety, however it remains one of the least discussed components.
POSTPARTUM ANGER STATISTICS
In the United States alone, statistics show that between 10-20% of women experience postpartum depression.
One study found that up to 65% of new moms in Asian countries experience postpartum depression. Based on those numbers alone, it suggests that we need to be paying close attention to predictive factors, as well as other mental health concerns that impact women postpartum that have similar early signs.
Doing a review of the existing body of research on postpartum anger, it was extremely difficult to find good quality studies and information. We will talk about a few reasons why there might be little interest and research in the area of women’s postpartum mental health at the end of the article. I also talk about women’s health and research in my breastfeeding series.
The review of postpartum research was eye opening for two reasons:
1. Postpartum mental health is largely portrayed categorically as depression. Yes, postpartum depression is important and needs more investment in terms of research and practical support for moms. However, this is problematic, as it misses that there is a whole host of other components. We risk over focusing on depression as the only metric of mental health functioning. There might be other challenges moms postpartum face such as anxiety, OCD, chronic worry and anger.
2. The lack of research on other forms of mental health challenges postpartum further stigmatizes women that may want to talk about their mental health, but don’t want to be labeled as depressed. Mental health is a spectrum. There may be A) many stages before postpartum depression (e.g., experiencing anger or rage, anxiety, etc). B) Furthermore, there are many other mental health challenges other than depression that make adjusting to motherhood challenging like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic worry, etc.
In the absence of a body of literature on postpartum depression, this article will focus on qualitative experiences and what the recent study conducted by Ou et al (2018) and real women’s accounts.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM ANGER?
Let’s take it from the top. If you’re a mom that thinks you might be experiencing postpartum anger or rage, you may already have a sense of what it is. However, let’s clarify if you are unsure or are curious to find out if it’s something you may be experiencing.
I have found it difficult to find a cohesive and consistent definition of postpartum anger in the research. What I mean by that is the issue hasn’t picked up enough traction among researchers to really define and test postpartum anger consistently across multiple studies. Anger is used mainly as a metric to define depression and anxiety.
However, what we do know from the recent qualitative study by Ou et al. (2018) based on the lived experiences of women who have postpartum anger is that it is often described so strongly that is named ‘rage’.
Fellow therapist and author Carolyn Wagner, published an article on the site Mother.ly.com where she describes the anger as overwhelming anger that sneaks up on you.
RECENT STUDY ABOUT POSTPARTUM ANGER
The recent study conducted by Ou et al. (2018) reviewed a mix of 24 qualitative and quantitative papers that address maternal anger and postpartum depression. By analyzing common themes from women’s experiences they were able to find out a bit more about postpartum anger.
These themes were:
- Anger with depression.
- Powerlessness being part of the experience of depression and anger.
- Anger resulting from a lack of alignment with expectations of motherhood versus the reality of motherhood.
An article written in Today’s Parent in 2018 called postpartum anger the ‘red flag no one saw’. According to the study conducted by Ou et al. (2018), it appears anger may actually be an early sign of postpartum depression.
In the study, women that developed postpartum depression also showed signs of anger. They even described it as ‘rage’ about things that in hindsight were insignificant.
POSTPARTUM ANGER COMES FROM?
It’s unclear where the anger comes from. Many women report that they are triggered by a range of things. I’ve read anything from a baby’s cry and dishes piling up to something not being done around the house that they asked their partner to do was triggering.
HELPFUL TIPS TO ADDRESS POSTPARTUM ANGER
Before anything, as you’ve seen postpartum rage may have a connection to postpartum depression and anxiety. If you feel you might be experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, please reach out for support.
You don’t have to do this alone and no one is expecting you to.
Taken from both the research on postpartum anger, consensus of expert opinion and the literature on anger management, other helpful TOP TIPS for postpartum anger or range include:
1. Learn your limits, triggers and how it feels inside your body when anger has entered.
Explore what are the things that are upsetting me? Journal and track what situations, people, times of the day, etc are points the anger comes out. In the journaling process, like anxiety, we need to understand where in your body the anger is and how does it move.
Pay attention to these bodily cues. These cues your body gives will start to alert you to what you need.
2. Self-reflection. Try to take time to stop, breathe and look around.
Understand where your anger is actually stemming from. I know there’s not much time to think when you’ve got a crying baby/kids, a messy house and a list of things to do.
Take a moment. Breathe. Ask yourself, what’s going on under the surface. Is it the unwashed dishes piling up that is upsetting me? Or is something else deeper bothering me?
Get to know your stress, tired and overwhelmed limits and triggers.
3. Ask for help. It’s okay to throw your hands up and say “I need some help”. You’re not alone.
Being a new mom or a mom in general can be isolating, frustrating and overwhelming.
The study addressed disempowerment and the lack of alignment as a theme. Whether seeking help through engaging with family, friends, a larger mom community, or a trained mental health professional, all are good options depending on what you’re comfortable with.
4. Acceptance and realignment of expectations with your new reality.
Being a new mom, whether it’s your first time around or your third is a huge change. Adding someone new to the family that is solely dependent. Combine this with other responsibilities and taking care of yourself can be incredibly overwhelming.
Understanding and taking a moment to consciously breathe and ingest that is pretty significant. Life may be different. Perhaps your expectations of motherhood and the reality of motherhood are not quite the same.
For most of us, they aren’t.
SOME RESULTING ISSUES OF IGNORING POSTPARTUM ANGER
The problem that has been raised here is that many screening for postpartum depression doesn’t ask about anger or rage.
You may have noticed that the other problem is mom anger or rage is not seen as socially appropriate to discuss. In our imagination about mothers, we are viewed as overly maternal and should be caught in the bliss of milk stained shirts and mini socks.
What’s clear is that there is not enough research on postpartum anger. More research and funding needs to be directed toward women’s health and mental health especially postpartum.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING POSTPARTUM ANGER OR RAGE?
If you are or think you might be experiencing postpartum anger or rage, please reach out to a trusted party and/or speak to a mental health professional. It is a great way of catching postpartum mental health challenges early.
Speaking to someone is an effective way to break the silence around your anger and seek support from other women perhaps experiencing the same thing. You are not alone. You don’t have to struggle alone.
Please reach out if you need to talk to someone trained in mental health via DM or through the Contact Me Form.
If you feel like you want to share your experiences, check out the comments below and get involved in the community.
I promise you are not alone.
Be good to yourself,