Having experienced postnatal depression following the birth of my son, I often doubted my abilities as a mother.
Although I read all about it, I never expected to suffer from postnatal depression – and to be honest, it hit me sideways and changed my life, my relationships and my overall experience of having a newborn in many ways.
While I went through months of emotional turmoil and sometimes indescribable sadness, I never experienced postnatal rage, which is another aspect of postnatal depression that is often overlooked.
What is postnatal rabies?
While postnatal depression and associated anxiety (PNDA) is widely covered in the media, the acute rage and anger sometimes felt by new mothers is less often discussed.
Given the lack of reporting and testing across Australia, it is unclear how many women suffer from postpartum rabies. However, recent research from the Center for Perinatal Excellence (COPE) has shown that uncontrollable anger frequently occurs alongside postnatal depression.
Naturally, this also has a negative effect on relationships and the overall experience and enjoyment of parenthood.
Research found that women who experienced postnatal rage were surprised by the outbursts of rage and anger they felt, because it was either completely irrelevant to them or an emotion they didn’t know. never associated with having a baby.
Feelings of frustration and shame
Many people with postnatal rage are often too ashamed or embarrassed to speak up or ask for help.
Nicole Highet, psychologist and founder and executive director of COPE, says postnatal rage is often the result of a combination of stressors that arise, particularly during the postnatal period.
“Dealing with an unstable baby, sleep deprivation, and isolation can all lead to feelings of frustration and feelings of being unsupported,” says Dr. Highet.
“While lack of sleep and hormonal fluctuations can test even the most patient among us, feelings of helplessness, a disconnect between what we expected of motherhood and reality, as well as the lack support from partners, family, and even medical professionals, can all contribute to intense feelings of rage.”
COPE has identified a range of postnatal rabies symptoms, including:
- Yell or swear more often.
- Difficulty controlling your temper.
- Physical expression of anger such as punching or throwing objects.
- Having violent thoughts or urges.
- Feeling a flood of emotions afterwards, including shame.
According to Dr. Highet, parents describe feeling immense guilt and shame after an outburst of rage at their infant or child who in no way meant to upset them, as well as an all-consuming shame at not being the loving parent that they were. the others seem to have. be.
“Many mothers describe the rage as coming out of nowhere and feeling shaken and upset afterwards. It can also reinforce feelings of failure or failing to live up to society’s ideal of the ‘perfect mother. “”, she says.
Why it’s important to ask for help early on
Dr. Highet also points out that parents and healthcare professionals should be aware that postnatal rage can also be a symptom of depression or anxiety that needs to be identified earlier and treated later.
“I think postnatal rage has probably always been there, it’s just not been talked about until very recently. That’s partly because talking about feelings of anger is still taboo at one time. where it is expected that a mother, or the father, would only ever have positive feelings of love towards their baby,” she says.
“Parents need their feelings acknowledged and accepted without judgment so they can access the support or treatment they need.
“We know that 74% of women who experience difficulties during pregnancy and after childbirth do not seek help until they reach crisis point, which only underlines the importance of screening to identify people at risk or in trouble.”
If you, or someone you know, has postnatal rage, Dr. Highet and COPE have a few suggestions that can ease some of the overwhelming emotions:
- Remember you are not alone. Rage can be a common part of early motherhood, especially when you’re sleep deprived and facing the challenge of transitioning into parenthood.
- Think About Your Triggers and Consider Keeping a Journal to keep track of what may trigger you. It can be helpful to understand patterns and help determine where you might need additional assistance.
- In the moment, try to slow down your breathing. Inhale for two seconds and exhale for four seconds until your heart rate slows down.
- Although these aspects are often not something we can control, things like saying “no” to visitors, lowering our expectations for household chores, and crossing a few items off our to-do list are ways to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed.
- If you can get away from your child for a bit, do something that you find soothing.. It will be different for everyone, but it could be taking a shower, going for a run, listening to music, or calling a friend.
- If you are concerned about your feelings of anger, depression or anxiety, talk to your GP or a medical professional, such as a psychologist. An early assessment of your mental health is paramount to ensure you are referred to appropriate support and subsequent treatment.
You can find help using COPE’s Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Directory.
This article contains general information only. You should consider obtaining independent professional advice based on your particular circumstances.
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