Postpartum Rage: What You See And Don’t See

Throughout pregnancy, you find yourself counting down the days until the next trimester week after week. Once the second trimester hits, you think, “Maybe my constant nausea will go away.” Then we get into the third trimester, and you can’t wait for the baby to come out. It’s the final weeks before the baby’s arrival, time to pick up those last few things you’ve needed and get the nursery completed. We are led to believe that once the baby is here and greets us earthside, that must mean that the journey is over for us, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. After you have the baby is when the “fourth trimester” starts. And it can be a doozy.

What is Postpartum Rage?

For many mothers, the fourth trimester has to be the most difficult part of growing and having a baby. It’s a total shift in how you’ve been living your life for the past nine months. Right after birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically. And with your hormones all over the place along with the physical and emotional act of giving birth, it can all knock you down on your knees. But it’s so important to know that you’re not alone in feeling those feelings of what some might call postpartum rage during this rough period. It’s not necessarily the feelings of depression or anxiety. Instead, you experience outbursts, anger, and irritability. Then it follows with guilt and shame for experiencing postpartum rage. Mothers who feel postpartum rage may be a sign that they have postpartum depression or anxiety or other postpartum mood disorder.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of postpartum rage may include:

  • An increased amount of screaming or swearing
  • Difficulty controlling your temper
  • A physical expression of anger such as punching or throwing things
  • Experiencing violent thoughts or urges
  • Feeling a flood of emotions afterward, including shame.
  • Dwelling on things that make you upset
  • Being unable to improve your mood on your own

Although you may be experiencing these symptoms, not much on the outside indicates there’s a problem. Sure, there are the bags under your eyes from lack of sleep. You may be short and sometimes rude with your words. But that isn’t uncommon for a new mom. After all, you may still be recovering from birth, and are caring for a newborn. While you may have tried to prepare yourself for this postpartum experience, the reality of it is not something you can truly prepare for.

Postpartum Rage is Not Uncommon

Many women don’t realize that postpartum rage is not uncommon, but we are scared to talk about it, scared to feel it, and just scared to understand what is bubbling under the surface. As mentioned before, our hormones have been on the largest rollercoaster known to man for the past nine months. Now the world expects us to get back to normal, drop everything, and become the ultimate #1 mom. Sometimes it feels like the world forgets that we moms are human beings who may have difficulty adjusting to our new life. What about seeing us as people who have gone through something quite intense? Yes, it’s incredible and something we are grateful for, but it’s a huge mental, physical, and emotional change in our lives. Perhaps the world should recognize that we too need to be comforted and treated as we recover?

Birth can be a beautiful thing, and it is a beautiful thing. There is nothing like finally meeting a healthy baby after a long time of unknowns and worry. However, I recognized that a lot of my postpartum rage came from not being recognized as a woman who just went through hell to meet her baby. Don’t get me wrong, “Mom” is an amazing title to have. But we are still individuals with individual needs that need to be met. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

You are Not Alone

There are also so many different kinds of postpartum scenarios that women deal with. Postpartum is not a one-size-fits-all, and it doesn’t affect everyone the same. Some mothers have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infertility. Does that make their postpartum journey any less than? Not even close. Postpartum rage can be much harder to deal with in those situations. Without a saving grace, it’s even harder to go on and hold in some of that rage while continuing your everyday life. Your hormones are still there, your feelings are still valid, and the postpartum emotions can become unbearable in these situations sometimes. It’s important to know: you’re not alone.

The “fourth trimester” is an important time for yourself and the people around you to know that you need to be handled with care and compassion. You are not any less of a mom if you’re experiencing sadness, rage, or just not feeling yourself. It’s a pivotal time in your life, and you deserve support. Of course, you should be thankful for what you have, but you can also acknowledge what you’ve been through. It’s a time to love and nurture, but to also be loved and nurtured yourself. You are starting your new role as a mother. But don’t forget about the role of yourself that you played before this new life.

What to Do and Treatments for Postpartum Rage

If you find yourself feeling intense rage, there is help available. There are several options for treatment and that’s why it’s best to talk to your doctor to determine which is the best treatment for you. The different options are:

  • Support groups — receiving self-help advice and meeting other mothers going through the same experiences can help validate her feelings. This can be online or in person.
  • Talk therapy — with a counselor or psychologist to learn coping techniques.
  • Medication and/or hospitalization — when necessary, medication or hospitalization is needed for a temporary period of time to help improve her overall state of mind.

Resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing bouts of postpartum rage and needs more help and information, reach out to one of these resources below:

  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) — offers online support groups, teletherapy local  provider referrals, Helpline, Online Professional training, and other services for you
    • Phone crisis line: 1-800-944-4773
    • Text support: (503) 894-9453
  • Motherhood Understood — an online community that offers group discussions and resources via a mobile app
  • The Mom Support Group — offers free peer-to-peer support group calls on Zoom calls led by trained postpartum advocate facilitators
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — a mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness
    • Phone crisis line (800-950-6264)
    • Text crisis line (“NAMI” to 741741) for people who need immediate assistance
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — offers free 24/7 helplines available for people in a crisis who may be considering taking their lives.
    • Call 800-273-8255
    • Text “HELLO” to 741741

Above all else, you’re not alone in these uncharted waters. You are a part of a community of moms who have the same feelings postpartum as you do. There’s a lot of us out there, and we all need to stick together in the roughest times, knowing we’ll get through this. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to love and care for the mother of that child.