Is postpartum anger or rage normal?

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Answered by: Carrie, An Expert in the Birthing and Baby Care Category
Postpartum depression (PPD) has become part of the vernacular among women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth. Obstetric office floors are littered with tri-fold pamphlets on the subject. Women with toddlers may openly talk about how they had PPD with their first, or a subsequent, child.

But even among the most supportive peers, it can be very difficult for women to honestly communicate the darker sides of their postpartum emotions, especially if they experienced something more dramatic, or different, than what they have read or heard about. A lesser discussed topic is the anger, rage, and frustration that can overcome newer mothers. Many women may be suffering from postpartum anger or rage.

Does this sound familiar? The baby finally fell asleep. You get up to fold the laundry that has been sitting in the dryer for two days. Just as the first pair of pants has been neatly folded into the basket, the baby begins to wail and you snap to attention. With no warning at all your heart pumps violently. Blood rushes to your face. An uncontrollable anger bubbles to the surface like lava in a newly active volcano. You know you should feel nothing but sympathetic love, but all you feel is frustration. You bang your fists repeatedly on top of the dryer and silently scream, or scream out loud, every expletive in the book wondering how "that baby!" can possibly need anything more from you.

Angrily, you make your way to the bassinet to address the baby's needs. You might even pick her up a bit roughly. Then, as the tide of anger ebbs, a horrible shame and guilt washes over you. You wonder how you ever became so horrible, feel unworthy of being a mother, and hope that nobody else knows what you are feeling. You feel isolated. This is not the idyllic scene of motherhood you previously envisioned - that of you and a baby rocking peacefully in the nursery. Don't worry. You are not alone. You are normal. You are okay. It can and will get better.

A mother can experience postpartum anger or rage as her predominant symptom of PPD, rather than uncontrollable crying or listlessness. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians "(Postpartum depression) Symptoms may include sadness, anxiety, and crying. Some women may worry too much about their baby, or be afraid of making mistakes in caring for their baby. They also may find it hard to concentrate or fall asleep. Some women may lose interest in things they used to enjoy".

The problem with this common definition is that for many women it is not sadness or worry that they are experiencing. Kristin shamefully talks about a time her 6-month-old daughter woke up for the third time one night, "I walked into the room, stood above her crib and screamed, 'I hate you!'. For two days after that I felt so incredibly guilty and hated myself". Sara, mother of two, shares, "I was desperately sleep deprived. I had no patience. Anger was my constant companion. Sometimes I would scream at him. Many times it made him cry." It's as if anger - having a negative, dark, or even masculine, connotation than sadness - ends up getting swept under the floor mat of "shameful emotions for a new mother". As such it is not as readily addressed in the way that the traditional symptoms of postpartum depression are.

In addition to sadness, postpartum depression symptoms can also include anxiety, frustration, anger, and rage. They include a tendency to be impatient, reactive, and volatile. You might have feelings of resentment or hatred towards your baby or other members of your household. These emotions are completely normal as a mother adjusts hormonally, mentally, and emotionally to the new demands of first-time or even fourth-time motherhood.

If you, or someone close to you is experiencing postpartum anger or rage, know that there is help. If you are experiencing it, the first thing you can do is rest assured that you are not a bad mother, but you are a mother who could use some extra support. Sometimes just finding one person you can confide in can help to release the energy, and give you an outlet for when you are feeling out of control of your emotions. There are also many therapists who specialize in postpartum issues, many of whom work on a sliding scale.

You can visit or call their toll-free number, 1-800-944-4PPD. They can help counsel you and direct you to a therapist in your area who can help. There is a common saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but it can also take a village to support a mother! Reach out for the support that you need and you will find yourself settling into a more healthy and content role of motherhood.

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