After analysing 25 years’ worth of maternal postnatal depression literature, researchers from the University of British Columbia established that this emotion was a common occurrence among sufferers. But, interestingly, the most popular screening tools (including the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) neglect to address it.
“We know that mothers can be depressed and anxious in the postpartum period, but researchers haven’t really paid attention to anger,” Christine Ou, nursing PhD student and the study’s lead author told UBC News.
“There’s some evidence that indicated 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.”
The study suggests that anger is most often fuelled by feelings of powerlessness, coupled with an unrealistic expectation of motherhood.
“Anger can be a reaction to broken expectations about what mothering will be like,” Ou explained. “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.”
Unmet expectations for support can also be a contributing factor:
“Many mothers have also expressed feeling let down by others in terms of support from partners, family members and healthcare providers as well.”
So, why then, have medical professionals and researchers historically overlooked this? Ou puts it down to many cultures not allowing women to express negative emotions.
“We know that children who are exposed to parental anger or depression are at a greater risk of developing emotional problems,” added the study’s co-author Wendy Hall. “It’s important for healthcare providers to examine maternal anger in the postnatal period in order to understand and manage that risk.”