Most of the time, new moms are depicted as peaceful, nurturing, and calm. Hardly are they viewed as angry, irritable, or full of rage. So when you find yourself screaming at your partner because they brought you the wrong burrito, or getting angry with your baby because they won't stop crying, you might not know what's happening or why. According to experts, while some anger is absolutely normal, there are some signs that your new-mom anger is something serious, and absolutely shouldn't be ignored.
According to Postpartum Progress, anger, having a short temper, and irritability can all be signs of postpartum depression (PPD). This might seem strange, because when most people think about depression they think "sadness." But people experiencing postpartum depression can feel a variety of other emotions, too. Another problem, according to the Pacific Postpartum Support Society, is that in our culture we don't really talk about moms being angry. So when it happens it can catch a new mom by surprise and make things feel severe. As Karen Kleiman, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the Postpartum Stress Center, writes for BabyCenter, anger can be scary because it's often experienced by parents who are generally not angry people.
If you are angry or irritable after your baby is born, you should definitely not ignore your feelings. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), in addition to PPD, anger can also be a symptom of other postpartum mood disorders, including postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PPTSD) or postpartum psychosis (PPP), which require treatment from a medical professional. So keep these signs in mind, and don't be afraid to reach out for help if you feel like you need additional postpartum support.
If It Is Not Normal For You
According to Kleiman, postpartum anger is common and can happen to anyone, even people who generally don't get angry easily. This can make it scary, though, and, according to the Pacific Postpartum Support Society, can enhance feelings that you've lost control or are a bad mom. Those feelings, in turn, can be incredibly overwhelming.
If things are making you seethe that wouldn't normally bother you, or you feel like you are spinning out of control, you should definitely call your health care provider.
If Everything Pisses You Off
According to Postpartum Progress, while it's perfectly normal to not be happy every waking moment of your new mom life (and anger is sometimes absolutely warranted in certain situations), if you find yourself getting angry about anything and everything, it might actually be a sign of PPD.
If You Have Experienced Trauma
According to the APA, if you had a traumatic birth experience or your baby had a medical emergency, your anger might actually be caused by PPTSD. This condition impacts one to six percent of new moms, and can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including panic attacks, insomnia and, yes, anger.
If You Have Other Symptoms
Kleiman adds that if new mom anger is accompanied by other symptoms of PPD — like feeling sad or being unable to sleep or eat — it is probably due to PPD. If you don't have other symptoms, however, she says that you may actually be suffering from another disorder called postpartum stress syndrome. While this disorder isn't the same as PPD, it can, fortunately, can also be treated.
If Your Anger Is Uncontrollable
If your new mom anger becomes overwhelming or uncontrollable, Kleiman suggests walking out of the room, breathing, or trying yoga or meditation. Katherine Stone, founder of Postpartum Progress, agrees. She suggests taking a "mommy time out" when your anger gets out of control.
Because these strategies won't work for everyone, especially if your anger is a symptom of PPD or something more serious, you should never hesitate to call your doctor, midwife, or therapist. You never, ever, have to do this alone.
If You Have Thoughts Of Harming Your Baby
According to the APA, postpartum psychosis is a rare postpartum mood disorder. If you suddenly experience extreme uncontrollable anger towards your child, or think that you might harm them, the site notes that you should treat this as an emergency and seek help immediately.
If You Have Thoughts Of Suicide
Kleiman notes that postpartum anger can manifest in different ways. It might actually look like isolation, impatience, or feeling like absolutely no one can do anything right — especially you. As psychiatrist Jean Kim writes in the Daily Beast, the pressure we put on ourselves as new moms, and resulting feelings of guilt and anger, can lead to thoughts of self harm or suicide.
If you have thoughts of suicide, you aren't alone. Free and confidential help is available 24/7 from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
For support and information about PPD, visit Postpartum Support International or call them toll free at 1-800-944-4773