There are some telltale symptoms of postpartum depression; sadness, crying, and anxiety are all things that doctors are screening for. But there's another symptom that is often right there, and usually overlooked. Anger is a symptom that can be present in postpartum depression, and yet, no one is including it on the list of things to look for. A recently released study from the University of British Columbia reveals that anger is a significant factor in postpartum mood disturbances. They also recommend that doctors screen for it exclusively along with depression and anxiety.
The study, conducted by PhD candidate Christine Ou, examines 25 years worth of postpartum depression literature. There are many things that tie into feeling anger; feelings of powerlessness is one. It's easy to feel powerless after having a baby, you're kind of in uncharted territory. If you have a baby who is a difficult sleeper, or colicky, or who nurses constantly, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the lack of control you have over the situation. You've just been through an overwhelming experience, and then you're being thrown into another one. It's no surprise that you're feeling powerless.
“There’s some evidence that indicates that being both angry and depressed worsens the intensity and length of depression. That can have many negative effects on the mother, child and family, and on the relationship between parents,” Christine Ou explains.
A mismatch between expectations and the reality of motherhood, and unmet expectations of support are two other contributions to postpartum anger. We all know or have heard stories of women who are forced to be in charge of all the childcare with a newborn, and very little time to care for themselves. Naturally, if you're not being properly supported, anger is likely going to be something that grows because your needs are not being met. Support is crucial to being able to successfully care for a newborn, and so many women aren't receiving that support.
We also know that we as mothers put so much pressure on ourselves. Things like breastfeeding vs. formula, or comparing how our baby sleeps can definitely affect how we view motherhood. Social media doesn't help, because seeing only carefully curated images of other's motherhood journey causes unnecessary pressure.
“Mothers may feel that they have not met their own expectations and that also others may judge them because, for example, they’re formula-feeding instead of breastfeeding. Many mothers have also expressed feeling let down by others in terms of support from partners, family members, and health-care providers as well.”
As of right now, Ou is unsure of what comes first, the depression or the anger. She claims that because anger isn't considered an acceptable emotion, especially in women. This could be why postpartum anger hasn't been more closely examined. Hopefully now that it's on our radar, more women will be able to receive help.
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