After you give birth, it’s totally normal for your emotions to be all over the place. One minute you’re in a joyous love bubble and the next you’re overwhelmed and exhausted. But is it normal to argue more after having a baby? Like, what do you do when your postpartum self picks fights over the smallest things? (Because those socks your partner left right next to the hamper make you want to rage.)
Why Arguing More After Birth Happens
When asked if it’s common for arguments to occur more after having a baby, neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez’s answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
“As much as things have progressed towards gender equality, it is still the woman who carries the baby for nine months, goes through labor, and gives birth,” Hafeez explains. “This process causes hormonal changes in the body during and post-pregnancy. Breastfeeding is new, there may be post-pregnancy pains, swollen legs, fatigue, and even postpartum emotional sensitivity, which is different than postpartum depression which is much longer-lasting and severe.”
On top of the hormonal changes and stress on your body from giving birth, your entire life changes once your baby is born. Suddenly, you’re up in the middle of the night changing diapers and feeding a newborn and responsible for a whole human life outside of your own. It’s admittedly a lot to take on.
“You are now in charge of taking care of someone other than yourselves, you may feel sleep-deprived, feeding may be taking all of the energy out of a new parent, and many other factors are changing in a parent’s life,” psychotherapist and founder of Our Mama Village, Jessica VanderWier, tells Romper. “Many parents report that the period of time after having a baby is a challenging one in their relationship. It makes sense that you may be arguing more than you did before.”
Changes In Romantic Partnerships Post-Birth
As mentioned above, a baby changes everything — romantic partnerships included. These changes can definitely lead to an increase in arguments.
“First off, you simply may have less time to communicate than before. Gone are the long nights after work sitting on the couch and having time to chat undisrupted,” VanderWier says. “You may also have less energy to communicate, and even more, most of your communication may be around things your new baby needs instead of about your own needs. It is common for partners to have a difficult time expressing their needs and discuss this with their partner in the period of time after having a baby.”
Between a lack of sleep for both parents and being unable to adequately express or address your needs within a partnership, snapping at one another more frequently may happen, all of which can lead to feelings of lackluster within your relationship. However, it’s totally possible to remedy the situation with a bit of one-on-one time.
“It is normal if sex/romance dwindles in the first weeks or early months of having a baby,” Hafeez tells Romper. “It is important that a couple makes extra efforts to set aside time, even if they are staying home and label it: ‘no baby talk time.’ Use this time to connect about things that don’t involve the baby, much like you did before the baby was born.”
Resentment Toward Others Can Lead To More Arguments
“Many parents feel resentment after giving birth,” VanderWier says. “I remember a time when I was waking up with my first baby for the fourth time that night and looking over at my husband who was fast asleep and just feeling an anger I had never felt before.”
VanderWier says that she is careful not to use the term “normal” when speaking about the post-birth experience and instead points out that these struggles with arguments and resentment are actually just “really common” instead.
These feelings can also crop up toward your friends or family members who aren’t going through or haven’t yet experienced what you are after giving birth. For example, I remember the envy and resentment I felt toward my co-workers going to happy hour after work as I headed home to care for my 6-week-old when my maternity leave ended
“Especially in this postpartum period, it is really important to be mindful of these feelings of resentment or anger. Anger should really be a call to tune into what you need,” VanderWier tells Romper. “Anger often surfaces when we have unmet needs like sleep, eating, needing more support and to feel heard, or even anxiety or depression. If you are noticing yourself feeling constantly angry or upset with a partner it is important to think about what might be going on underneath this feeling.”
How To Cope With Increased Arguing After Having A Baby
While arguing more after having a baby isn’t uncommon, it usually doesn’t feel great. But, experts agree that there are ways to cope with the emotions involved.
“First off, as a therapist, I highly recommend couples counseling to anyone who is struggling with communication, feelings of resentment, or arguments after birth,” VanderWier says. “There is absolutely no shame in getting extra support after you have a baby, and many couples benefit from this.”
Since resentment toward others can play such a large role in the increase of arguments post-birth, addressing the “why” behind these feelings is crucial. “Resentment is an expectation that is unmet,” Hafeez tells Romper. “Speak with the people in your life who play a role in taking care of your child to figure out how your needs can be met as well.”
VanderWier also suggests being direct when communicating with those around you to help cope — especially with your partner. “I also encourage my clients to really practice being direct about their needs with their partner,” she says. “Remember that your partner is not a mind reader and may not know what you need in terms of help with the new baby and support for yourself.”
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, neuropsychologist in NYC and Columbia University faculty member
Jessica VanderWier, psychotherapist and founder of Our Mama Village