Feb 10, 2023 • 6 min read

Postpartum Rage: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Mothers of newborns experience considerable challenges, including physical, emotional, social, and mental hardships. One of the greatest difficulties new moms face is the internal and external pressure to be a blissful, calm, and collected mother.

Most mothers aspire to be loving, kind, nurturing, and competent—however, the birth of a new baby can unleash unanticipated emotions, leaving many moms struggling.

According to the CDC, 1 in 8 moms will experience symptoms of postpartum depression and according to one Canadian study, 31% of moms report feeling intense anger.

Postpartum rage and anger are symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Due to the stigmatization of women expressing anger, this symptom often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

While many studies point to hormonal shifts as a main contributor to Postnatal Depression and Anxiety (PNDA), the fact that dads and non-birth parents can also experience PNDA, indicates there are other contributing factors.

If you are dealing with postpartum rage, you are not alone. Read on to find out more and learn how to get the support you deserve. Below, we examine postpartum rage, its symptoms, causes, treatment options, and coping strategies.

What is Postpartum Rage?

Postpartum rage is not a standalone diagnosis, instead, it is a significant and rather common symptom of PNDA. PNDA is characterized by depression and anxiety, often manifesting in frequent crying, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, feeling disconnected, racing thoughts, or low mood.

Doctors often overlook anger and irritability as symptoms since they aren’t often associated with more “classic” forms of depression and anxiety.

Experiencing postpartum rage can feel overwhelming, frightening, unexpected, and shameful. Moms of newborns or young children might express their rage in a variety of ways, but, however it manifests, most report feeling great sadness and shame after the angry episode ends.

Rebekah Laferriere, MSW states, “Postpartum anger can have negative effects on our relationships, our ability to parent, and our ability to take care of ourselves.”

Up to 85% of moms with newborns experience the “baby blues” which lasts for about two weeks following birth and can include feelings of sadness, fear, trouble sleeping, restlessness, and crying. The difference between postpartum depression and baby blues is that the former can last a year or more without treatment, whereas the “baby blues” typically resolves on its own within a few weeks.

What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Rage?

Postpartum rage presents differently for each mom. While some may express their rage outwardly, others will be dealing with it internally without anyone in the outside world ever knowing.

Often, a vicious cycle will begin when a mom feels angry, then turns that anger on herself for feeling those angry thoughts. Some symptoms of postpartum rage include:

  • Difficulty controlling anger and temper
  • Feeling uncontrollably irritable
  • Increased yelling or swearing
  • Hitting or throwing objects
  • Violent urges or thoughts
  • Difficulty switching thoughts from anger to something more positive
  • Anger about things that formerly would not have been bothersome
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Taking anger out on spouses, partners, family, friends, and children

The screening tool professionals use to diagnose PNDA is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It requires mothers to self-report their current emotional state.

Due to self-reporting, many women might not feel comfortable listing anger as a symptom because of societal and cultural pressure and, therefore, may be underdiagnosed.

What Causes Postpartum Rage?

Research studies indicate there is a myriad of contributing factors that cause postpartum rage. In addition to hormonal shifts and genetic predispositions to depression and anxiety, societal factors also play a major role.

Causes of postpartum rage include:

  • Limited work benefits, such as Paid Family Leave (often only 6 weeks)
  • Limited support of family and friends (Western cultures tend to emphasize autonomy)
  • If rural, limited resources for childcare and other support
  • High cost of childcare
  • Marginalized and underserved communities often lack the most support and resources
  • Often, the division of labor between the home and children is unequal, typically weighing more heavily on the mother
  • Financial strain
  • Loss of identity as a new parent
  • Expectations of parenthood fall short of reality

An enormous shift occurs in one’s life after the birth of a baby. When considering all these factors, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume a new mom might feel overwhelmed, isolated, and angry.

Treatment Options

The good news is, treatment is available, and the outcome of various treatments have a high rate of success when social support is included in the treatment plan. A combination of these treatment options typically provides the best results and fastest recovery time.


Postpartum depression/mental health therapy tends to be the first line of intervention and symptom management. If the idea of trying to fit one more appointment into your schedule deters you from seeking therapy, there are many online therapy platforms that accept insurance and utilize licensed and seasoned therapists.

The benefits of online therapy include not having to arrange for childcare, not having to commute, and anonymity to name a few.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly regarded methodology for working with PNDA. CBT therapy operates on the belief that many people’s maladaptive thoughts and behaviors originate from dysfunctional beliefs. If these beliefs are addressed and challenged, then positive thoughts, beliefs, and socially acceptable behaviors will manifest.


Mothers who breastfeed often hesitate to consider medication as an option because of the common misconception that taking medication while breastfeeding has negative consequences. Safe medication is available for breastfeeding mothers to treat PNDA symptoms.

According to research, antidepressants are generally safe while breastfeeding if clinically necessary. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), especially, have been studied extensively with breastfeeding mothers.

Taking tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline during breastfeeding is also generally considered safe as the nursing infant is exposed to a very small amount of the drug.

As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor before breastfeeding while taking antidepressants or any other medication.

It should be noted that over-the-counter supplements and even herbal remedies can be dangerous to use while breastfeeding. Therefore, it is always recommended to talk with your primary care physician or OBGYN before taking any of these while breastfeeding.

>> Read more: Postpartum anxiety treatment options

Postpartum Rage Support Groups

Social support is paramount to the successful treatment of PNDA. Even those who identify as introverted will benefit from the support and socialization of being with others experiencing similar struggles.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a great resource for those living in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. PSI offers local and online support groups for those dealing with PNDA and its symptoms.

Other Tips for Coping with Postpartum Rage

In most Westernized societies, we expect the mother to pick herself up by the bootstraps and carry on after giving birth. Many other cultures, however, uphold the custom of nurturing the mother during the Fourth Trimester (the time between birth and 12 weeks postpartum).

La Cuarentena” is a Latin American custom that lasts for 40 days post-birth and is designed to nurture the mother and child, promote healing, and encourage bonding. During these 40 days, the partner does not sleep in the room with the mother and child. The mother and child do not leave the home property and, instead, their needs are catered to by family and friends.

Though modern-day life may not accommodate such a lovely and nurturing tradition, there are some key takeaways worthy of adopting:

  • Allowing time and patience for the mother to heal
  • Slowing down to rest physically and mentally
  • Accepting help from others

Here are some other tips for coping with postpartum rage:

  • Take a self-imposed time out when experiencing rage. Place the baby with a safe person or in a safe space, like the crib. Spend time in another part of the house momentarily while trying to calm down. Sometimes just separating for several minutes can be helpful.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones. If the baby’s cries are triggering, it’s ok to use noise-canceling headphones when holding your baby and trying to soothe him or her.
  • Care for yourself. Any time you can nap or care for yourself, do so. The old saying, “place the oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping others” applies here. Learn more with our postpartum care checklist.
  • Exercise when possible. Though it may be hard to find the time as a new mom, exercise can be enormously beneficial for elevating mood.
  • Soak in the sun. Getting plenty of direct sunlight can boost your mood and help you feel calmer.
  • Get enough sleep. Though sleep may be compromised, get it in whenever you can. Remind yourself this period is temporary; your sleep schedule will be restored one day soon.
  • Eat well. Eat nutritious food whenever you can and don’t punish yourself when you can’t. Be kind to yourself and your body as you heal, you just created another life. Learn more about what a good postpartum diet plan looks like here.
  • Journal. Writing in a journal can be extremely cathartic. In fact, the American Psychological Association has shared research demonstrating the power of writing in providing mental health benefits as well as immunological benefits.

>> Read more: When does postpartum depression peak?

Final Thoughts

Parenting newborns and young children is one of the most challenging times in one’s life. As rewarding and lovely as parenthood can be, acknowledging that it can be equally stressful, is step one towards improving your mindset and expectations during these early years.

If you are experiencing PNDA and Postpartum rage, reach out to get the support you deserve and take comfort in knowing you are not alone.

Here are some organizations that can help:

Lauren Reynolds is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has worked with over half a dozen non-profits, including a residential facility for young mothers and their newborn babies. Lauren is also a mother to a 15-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, both birth center babies. She believes in inclusive maternity practices and access to quality maternal health for all. Lauren is also a culinary school graduate and professionally trained chef.