After I became a mom, I started slamming doors.
It really took me by surprise at first. As a typical middle child in a family of four siblings, I was known for being the peacekeeper. I was known for avoiding conflicting and bringing up the bright side in every situation. So, when new motherhood brought with it mood swings and rage, I didn’t really know how to respond.
It took me two kids and a run with prenatal depression to realize that the rage I experienced after my very first pregnancy was just another symptom of postpartum depression.
As a new mom, when I thought about postpartum depression, I had a very specific idea of what that would look like and what type of symptoms I should be watching for. If I was crying a lot, struggling to get out of bed to take care of my kids or feeling like life wasn’t worth living, then I would know I needed to call my doctor. But that wasn’t my experience.
Instead, I bounced back from the emotional roller coaster of giving birth pretty quickly, except for one like thing: I was really, really angry.
It’s weird to describe the type of rage I experienced. It wasn’t like I was angry at any one thing or person, I just felt frustrated about life in general. Every day felt like it was full of difficulty and inconvenience and that made me mad. Instead of finding ways to appropriately deal with those feelings, I felt like I was constantly bubbling over with rage, slamming doors and stomping around the house, but it never crossed my mind that this might be a sign of postpartum depression.
Honestly, instead of thinking there might be something up, I found myself feeling like a terrible wife and mom. In my transition to being a new mom, it felt like my anger was simply one more sign I was failing.
It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that she was also experiencing excessive anger and that her doctor had said it was a part of her postpartum depression and anxiety that I thought something might be up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until my third pregnancy that I was diagnosed with prenatal depression. Now, looking back, I am certain I also had postpartum depression after my first two children were born but that I simply fell through the cracks.
In an effort to set the record straight on postpartum depression symptoms once and for all, I touched base with Yvonne Bohn, MD, OB/GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, who told me that moms should really be on the lookout for any mood changes that are alarming or out of character for them.
“There is a huge fluctuation in hormones as soon as the placenta is removed, so we have these really high levels estrogen and progestin and as soon as the placenta comes out those levels drop. If you are breastfeeding, those levels will stay completely low and flat for a long period time.”
This is believed the be the cause behind postpartum depression and anxiety symptoms, which vary largely from person to person, according to Bohn.
“The symptoms vary, they can be teary-eyed, emotional, crying to being anxious where you can’t sleep, where you don’t want anyone to touch your baby or you don’t want to leave your baby. Some people have obsessive compulsive symptoms.”
According to Bohn, irritability may simply be a normal reaction to the extreme life changes motherhood brings. The lack of sleep and heavy demands of caring for any infant are enough to make anyone feel on edge. The real concern arises when your feel you aren’t in control of your anger or if the anger you are feeling is out of character for you.
In the end, there is really no cut and dried checklist for self-diagnosing postpartum depression or anxiety. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a varied list of symptoms from misery to excessive anger to feelings of worthlessness.
Nobody warned me that I might feel angry all the time after I gave birth. Nobody warned me that feeling so out of sorts wasn’t normal. If you are experiencing any mood swings that make you feel like you’re not yourself, the best course of action is to chat with a doctor to see if your might be dealing with postpartum depression, since the symptoms can look so different from mom to mom.