Do You Have Postnatal Rage? What You Need To Know

Postnatal rage is a symptom of postnatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) many new mamas aren’t aware of.  

 New mamas are more informed than ever about signs of PNDA to look out for. PNDA has many traits, some of them include overwhelming sadness, changes to appetite, difficulties bonding with your baby, panic attacks or obsessive thoughts. 

In the first check up after giving birth, your doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse may ask if you’ve been experiencing any of these signs in the months after giving birth.  

But there is one symptom of postnatal mood disorders that no one is asking you about: postnatal rage. This is an overwhelming anger that is so intense it feels like more than anger. 

And the worst part? Women are suffering in silence because they don’t believe they should feel this way or are afraid of being judged as a bad parent. 

What is postnatal rage?

Around 1 in 7 new mums develop a mood disorder called postnatal depression and/or anxiety (PNDA) after they give birth. This condition is more serious and lasts longer than the baby blues that typically happen in the first few days after birth but disappear within a week. 

 New research shows women who experience PNDA are more likely to experience anger as well as the other expected symptoms. Yet anger as a symptom of PNDA isn’t included in standard screening tests for postnatal mood disorders. 

As a result, until now anger has been missed as a sign of postnatal mood disorders and mamas are left trying to deal with intense feelings of anger, betrayal and explosive rage. 

What causes postnatal rage?

When we think of new motherhood, being angry isn’t an emotion we associate with that picture of blissful baby snuggles. 

Unfortunately, few mothers are prepared for the challenges of becoming a parent. Many of us aren’t properly supported in this transition, with too many unrealistic expectations placed on us being able to ‘cope.’ 

Many women start motherhood feeling helpless or trapped as they take on the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, often at the expense of their own needs. New mamas might be mourning a pause in career, coping with the full demands of a household, without family or friends to offer support.  

Anger can be a response to feeling let down by partners, family or health care providers. It’s also common for new mothers to feel they’ve lost a part of themselves, especially if others are going on with life as before. 

If health issues have occurred after birth, the birth was traumatic, or if they can’t meet an expectation they had (such as breastfeeding), these feelings of failure or guilt can come up as anger.

Anger is more than just a feeling at that moment. It’s the visible red flag of what is going on underneath, masking deeper feelings such as fear, anxiety or grief. It might seem on the surface your anger is irrational but it is a distress signal—a red flag something else is going on that needs attention. 

What are the signs?

In the few months after giving birth to my third child, I found myself constantly on the edge of white-hot rage.  

My responses to anything even slightly negative were irrational, even frightening. A driver cutting me off on the road, a person walking slowly in front of me at the supermarket, even the sound of my partner’s breathing when he was sleeping. 

The anger I would feel was all consuming, overwhelming and something out of my control. Which was even more frightening. After the rage passed, I felt extreme shame, guilt and regret. I worried that I’d say or do something I’d regret and I was afraid of my children witnessing this frightening version of their mother. 

 How do I deal with postnatal rage?

If you’re constantly flying off the handle over big and small things after the birth of your baby, then a good place to start is whether you have other symptoms of postnatal depression or anxiety. 

PANDA has a checklist for new mums that can help you decide if you need further support. 

If you do have signs of PNDA, or you’re unsure, it’s important to reach out for help. Your doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse is a good place to start. While PNDA is common, if it’s not treated it can become severe, affecting your ability to care for yourself and your baby.  

It can help to keep track of your episodes of rage. Often what causes the rage to explode out of you is simply the tipping point. 

Think about:

  •     Where you were
  •     What was happening before
  •     Who is around you at the time or earlier
  •     How tired were you
  •     What time of day are the episodes most likely to happen?

If you notice particular triggers it can help you to identify the underlying issues that aren’t being dealt with and are contributing to your anger. 

Treatment for PNDA comes in many forms, such as counseling, support therapies, medication, etc. The path of treatment you choose will depend on your situation. 

Support from family and friends is vitally important. You may wish to find a postnatal doula to step in and provide respite from some of the things that triggering your deeper feelings. There are also natural treatments you can access to bring a deep and powerful connection back into your life, under the guidance of an experienced therapist.   

So if you’re a new mum and feeling angry, take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. Many women experience anger after giving birth. Seek support from your care provider.

Nurtured Birth offers support for new mamas having difficulty in the transition to motherhood, through postnatal doula support, massage therapy and naturopathy. Contact us for more information. 

If you or anyone you know needs help call the PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9 am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT) 1300 726 306.

Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth

6 Top Tips To Prepare For Successful Breastfeeding

Successful breastfeeding is expected by most new mamas, because it’s … well, natural.

The truth is, since the beginning of time, new mamas naturally fed their babies after watching and learning from other women around them. It’s only been in our recent history that breastfeeding has come less naturally to new mothers.

Changes in social attitudes meant birth and breastfeeding became less visible. Our grandmothers, mothers and our own generation missed out on that vital firsthand experience of watching others go through these life-changing events.

It’s actually not surprising that today while most new mamas do breastfeed their newborns after birth, very few continue to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months.

We know how important breastfeeding is for babies and mothers, and getting it right from the start is key to a successful breastfeeding relationship.

If you are a mama-to-be who wants to prepare for breastfeeding, here are some valuable tips to ensure your journey is successful:

#1: Learn about successful breastfeeding before birth

Research indicates quality education about postnatal parenting and breastfeeding is the best step to ensure a successful breastfeeding experience.

Learning about breastfeeding before you give birth means you have the time and energy to actually take on the information. Trying to learn about breastfeeding when you and baby are recovering from birth can be overwhelming.

You’re also more likely to implement some of the other tips covered in this blog post. How you decide to learn about breastfeeding can be through attending a class, such as those the Australian Breastfeeding Association runs, antenatal classes at your hospital, or with a private lactation consultant (see tip #6 for more information).

#2: Understand normal newborn behaviour

I don’t think there’s a parent alive who hasn’t been in the presence of their newborn for the first 24 hours and thought ‘wow, we hit the jackpot with a quiet sleeping baby’.  The first 24 hours or so after birth, a newborn tends to sleep a lot, feed a little, and maybe cry some too.

Then 1-3 days after birth, your baby is more awake and aware. They also realise food isn’t on tap anymore, are quite hungry and cry a lot more. They tend to want to feed very frequently.

This is actually very normal newborn behaviour. They have small tummies and need to feed often, especially as they’re helping to increase their food source – your milk supply.

Most new mamas aren’t prepared for this change in their baby. They feel they’re doing something wrong, their baby isn’t getting enough milk and that’s the reason for the crying and fussiness.

This stage doesn’t last, but it can be very frustrating and exhausting when it does. Being aware that this is very likely to happen, and being patient with yourself and your baby is a step toward getting through this stage.

#3: Who’s got your back?

In the months and weeks before giving birth, have a look around your immediate support network. Who do you know breastfed for at least 6 months, even beyond? Ask that mama questions about what she felt helped her the most.

It’s a good idea to discuss your intentions to successfully breastfeed with your partner, family and close friends. Research shows partner support is one of the biggest factors in new mamas continuing to breastfeed. If you feel your partner might be less supportive or concerned, get along to a breastfeeding class together. Talk to your partner about how important it is to have their support.

Think carefully about the people in your life who are less likely to be supportive. Many women find the older generation has a very negative attitude towards breastfeeding. It can be wise to be aware of this and have a frank discussion beforehand about your intention to breastfeed and expectation they will refrain from being negative about it.

#4: Create a successful breastfeeding plan

It’s likely you’re already preparing your birth bliss plan, the document that lists your intentions and preferences when you go into labour. Include your breastfeeding bliss plan on your birth plan too. This should state your preferences for the first hour after birth (see tip #5).

In the first hour after birth, your baby will likely be quiet and alert, which is the perfect state for the first breastfeed. Stay skin-to-skin with your baby and allow your baby to seek your nipple.

This can take a little time but all babies have an innate instinct to find their mother’s nipple very soon after birth. Ask care providers to refrain from touching or forcing your baby to take the nipple until they’re ready.

It should be said, most maternity hospitals support early breastfeeding when labour and birth has been uncomplicated. It’s usually when you or baby have needed medical intervention that breastfeeding can be interrupted.

Where appropriate, have skin-to-skin with your baby (or with your partner). Where possible, seek support to feed your baby directly from your breast. It can be useful to have on your birth preferences that your baby is not to be given any artificial nipples or formula unless medically indicated and with your consent.

Babies in special care nurseries can be given breast milk by oral syringe or feeding tube, so ensure all care providers are aware of your preferences. Speak to the hospital lactation consultant (or your own) about pumps and how to best keep up your supply if you’re separated from your baby for some time.

#5: Plan for a normal birth

Women have been giving birth since the beginning of humanity with minimal intervention. It’s only been in the last few centuries we’re started to interfere with the process. Mostly this has been with good intention, to prevent anything risky from happening.

Unfortunately, intervention during labour has consequences and often the time after birth is affected but least considered. During your baby’s first hour, if they are given skin-to-skin contact with you, this helps them to regulate their temperature and respiration, boosts their immunity, helps with the third stage, and improves successful breastfeeding rates.

Babies born to mamas who haven’t had pain medication are also more likely to breastfeed than those mamas who have. That being said, if you do need medical intervention or choose to have pain medication, you don’t have to miss your baby’s first hour.

See tip #4 above for suggestions on how to make that work for you and your unique situation.

#6: Call the breastfeeding expert

It might seem pre-emptive to hire a lactation consultant when you’re pregnant and not yet breastfeeding. But when it’s day three after birth and you’re in tatters because your baby is crying and won’t latch and it seems impossible to go on, you will be glad to have your LC on speed dial.

A lactation consultant is a breastfeeding specialist. They have special training and can help identify what’s not working and how to resolve it. Most early breastfeeding challenges can be fixed, with the right, qualified support.

If hiring a private LC isn’t possible, ask your midwife what support is offered by your hospital or through your local council. Keep the Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline number handy for help too.

At Nurtured Birth we are here to support you in your journey to breastfeed after birth and beyond. Find out more about us and our services here.

Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth

Newborn Sleep – Everything You Need To Know

Newborn sleep is the hot topic when you’ve had a baby. Newborn babies have very different sleep patterns and needs compared to older babies and children. 

 At Nurtured Birth we believe the period after birth is an important space for mothers to heal, for bonding with your new baby, and adjusting to a new family dynamic.  

Sleep and rest are a big part of this and knowing what to expect in the first few weeks can ease the transition into early parenting.   

Can newborn babies sleep too much?

Newborns tend to be very sleepy in the first few days after birth. 

They sleep for around 16-20 hours in a 24 hour day and there’s no pattern to their sleep as their brains haven’t started producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for wake-sleep cycles. 

It’s very normal for your newborn to have day and night mixed up because during pregnancy, your baby was tuned into your body cues about day and night.  

Newborns can’t cope with being awake for more than 45-60 minutes. After this, your newborn becomes overtired and their body produces too much cortisol, making it even harder to go to sleep. 

As their nervous system starts to mature, your newborn becomes more alert and sensitive to their environment.  

How should a baby sleep?

New parents are often surprised at how much their newborn wants to be held, even when sleeping. Newborns are driven by an innate instinct to feel safe and comfortable, especially as they’re adjusting to the world outside the womb. They survive by seeking out comfort and safety, crying if they’re put down or left in a quiet, dark room alone. 

New parents can feel they’re doing the ‘wrong’ thing by holding their sleeping newborn. Just remember your newborn is wired for this connection and you can’t ‘spoil’ them by holding them when they’re asleep.

Make sure when your baby is sleeping on their own you follow the safe sleeping guidelines (you can find more information here).

Can you teach a baby to sleep?

Many new parents look for ways to help or teach their newborn to sleep ‘well’. Society perpetuates the idea a ‘good baby’ is one that learns to sleep for longer periods as early as possible. 

There are plenty of so-called baby sleep experts pushing the idea that newborns can be ‘taught’ to sleep well if only parents do X or Y. That if you start off the ‘right’ way, then you’ll have a perfect sleeping baby within no time.

When these steps fail, it leads to parents feeling like failures and becoming more frustrated. And when you’re in the thick of being woken several times a night, it’s tempting to think there’s something ‘wrong’ with your baby. 

The reality is, newborns don’t sleep badly to inconvenience anyone. They are sleeping in a way that is normal and appropriate for their development and needs. 

What does newborn sleep look like?

Newborns sleep very differently to adults, spending most of their time in rapid eye movement sleep (REM). This means they have short sleep cycles of around 55-50 minutes and can be very active in their sleep (twitching, stretching, crying out). They can also move through sleep cycles quite frequently.  

REM is very light sleep, and is thought to be a necessary part of newborn brain development. But it also has another protective purpose. Babies who are in deep sleep find it harder to wake up if they’re not getting enough oxygen. While REM is lighter sleep and newborns can wake up from more easily, they are less at risk of SIDS. 

As babies grow and develop, their sleep will change. It’s not an exact science, because not all babies develop the same way. Some babies want longer periods of feeling safe, others need more or less sleep, and there are babies who are completely textbook.   

Around 6 weeks of age, your baby’s brain starts to produce small amounts of melatonin, ramping up around 12 weeks after birth. It’s not instant but you will notice your baby’s sleep starts to fall into a more organised pattern. 

Exclusively breastfeeding can help your baby to sort out their sleep patterns. Breast milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan that the body uses to make melatonin (how cool are women’s bodies!). Tryptophan levels change according to your circadian rhythm, so when you breastfeed your baby before bedtime, they fall asleep faster. 

Remember newborns have small tummies and can’t last all night without fuelling up. Frequent night-wakings to feed is normal and necessary for newborns. As your baby grows, they may space out feeds and wake less often at night. Some babies might still wake to nurse but go back to sleep quickly.  

How to cope with sleep deprivation with a newborn?

Most new parents find it really challenging to cope with a sudden sleep deficit when they have a newborn. New mamas who are up several times a night breastfeeding are also recovering from birth and the exhaustion of pregnancy. An important part of coping with sleep deprivation is looking after yourself:

  1. Sleep when your baby is sleeping. Even a 30 minute power nap can help you get through the day. Prioritise having a nap over household chores, entertaining visitors etc. 
  2. If you are too awake to nap or have other children to care for, make time to sit quietly or rest. You might find yourself dozing while your baby sleeps and older children are watching a TV program.
  3. Set up a safe sleeping space for you and your baby at night. Breastfeeding mothers who sleep close to their babies (safe cosleeping or room sharing) get more sleep than those who don’t sleep in the same space.
  4. Let your baby be exposed to natural lighting during the day and keep lights dimmed at night. Natural light can influence your baby’s sleep patterns and keeps your own circadian rhythms on track (helping you to produce plenty of sleep inducing breastmilk!).
  5. Ask for help if you’re feeling really sleep deprived. Your partner, family or trusted friend can cuddle and care for your newborn while you have a restorative nap. If you don’t have support from family and friends, consider a postnatal doula to provide support.
  6. Sometimes babies don’t sleep due to health issues such as reflux. Seek guidance from your doctor, midwife or maternal health nurse if your instincts are telling you something isn’t right.
  7. Often parents mistake their baby moving or vocalising as a sign they’re waking up and rush into soothe, and then disrupt their baby from settling into the next sleep cycle. Tune into your baby and you’ll start to know the difference when they’re truly awake.
  8. Never feel you are going to spoil your baby by responding to their needs when they’re signaling they need you. Babywearing can be a great way to keep your newborn close and help them feel safe, while you go about your day.
  9. Recognise if you’re feeling completely wiped out and stressed due to sleep deprivation and seek support. Watch for signs of postnatal depression and anxiety.
  10. Accept this is a stage most babies go through and grow out of, until the next growth and developmental stage arises. Be gentle on yourself.

Click here to find out how Nurtured Birth’s postnatal doula can surround you with support and nurture as you navigate the early days of parenting. 

Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth

Easy Ways You Can Prepare For Pregnancy Now

How to prepare for pregnancy seems like a no-brainer. Sperm meets egg, cells divide, baby grows…it doesn’t seem that complicated.

But your journey to motherhood starts long before you see that positive pregnancy test. Whether you’re trying to conceive on your own or with medical assistance, preparing for pregnancy is an important step to take to ensure a healthy baby and pregnancy.

Before you get serious about creating a new little human, there are some things you and your partner should think about. If you’ve already started the baby-making process, don’t worry – it’s never too late to make changes to improve your lifestyle and health.

Preconception check-up

The health of each parent is one of the key components of improving your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy.

It takes about two to three months to form mature sperm and eggs take about 100 days to mature before ovulation. This means your current fertility status is the result of your lifestyle, diet, environment and health from three or so months in the past.

So you can see, it’s important to be as healthy as possible even before conceiving a baby. It’s a good idea for you and your partner to have a health check up to find out if there is anything that interferes with conception or a future pregnancy.

This check-up should take into consideration your diet and lifestyle, your medical and family medical history, any health conditions you have, medications you take, and any previous pregnancies.

Any long-term existing health conditions should have a management plan and be under control before you fall pregnant.

As you prepare for pregnancy, it’s also a good idea to book an appointment to see your dentist. Gum disease has been linked to pregnancy complications such as preterm labour, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. If you need any fillings or dental work done, it’s better to have it done before you’re pregnant.

Your naturopath and other practitioners can support you to improve your overall health and fertility, to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Lou from Nurtured Birth explains that an initial consultation with a naturopath would usually involve gaining a comprehensive understanding of your current health condition, past health concerns and other factors which are important for optimal fertility.

Here are some lifestyle tips to look at:

Prepare for pregnancy with nutrition

As said earlier, your current fertility status is the result of the past few months diet and lifestyle. Having both you and your partner in peak nutritional health at the time of conception increases the chances of a healthy baby and pregnancy.

Your body needs a regular supply of nutrients for growth, energy and regeneration. These requirements increase during the beginning of pregnancy to the end, and then beyond in the time after birth as you recover and nourish your baby.

Prepare for pregnancy by boosting your daily nutrients through the food you eat. While the occasional treat is fine, your diet should be comprised of the highest quality foods possible. You can enjoy a balanced diet with protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. As much as possible, avoid processed foods that provide empty calories with no nutritional value, such as biscuits and cakes. Instead aim to eat mostly vibrant, fresh fruit and vegetables.

A good place to start is to see your naturopath for an assessment of your current nutritional status.

This consultation would also include an analysis of your current food intake, with suggestions made to improve your diet. Your naturopath can work with you to create an individualised plan to ensure you get all the nutrition you and your partner need for a healthy conception.

Your baby also needs plenty of nutritional support, from the moment of conception. Adequate levels of vitamins and minerals are vital, including iron, calcium, iodine, omega-3 and selenium. Folate is very important as it helps to prevent spina bifida in babies.

Choose a prenatal supplement carefully or with the help of your naturopath. You may have specific needs which can’t be addressed by a generic prenatal supplement.

Healthy weight before pregnancy

If you are under or over your ideal weight, it’s important to address this before pregnancy if possible.

Being underweight can create problems for women trying to conceive, as it creates hormone imbalances that interfere with ovulation. Women in the underweight range are likely to take more than a year to conceive compared to women in the healthy weight range.

Being overweight can affect sperm motility and count so your partner’s weight also matters.

Conceiving at a healthy weight means pregnancy complications are also less likely to occur, and your baby has a better chance of being healthy at birth and into their future.

This means you are also likely to have a more positive birth experience. Why? Because health conditions increase your risk for complications that need medical intervention.

Prepare for pregnancy with exercise

How your body functions before you conceive can impact how your body copes with the changes that pregnancy and birth brings.

Exercise offers more than just physical fitness. You are learning how to work with your body, releasing feel-good hormones like endorphins, and paving the way to an easier labour and recovery after birth.

Don’t believe us? Studies have found that women who exercise during pregnancy have shorter labours and are less likely to need pain relief.

If you already exercise, you should be able to maintain your current program through most of your pregnancy. Be guided by your body and ensure you don’t overheat or push harder than your abilities.

Yoga, swimming and walking are brilliant ways to increase your exercise if you don’t do any. Yoga has the added benefit of helping you with the mind-body connection, something we’re big on at Nurtured Birth. You can find out more about Nurtured Birth’s prenatal classes here.

Quit smoking, alcohol & social drugs

We’re not here to judge but smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs are the most problematic habits for overall health, fertility and pregnancy.

All of these substances can make it much more difficult to get pregnant and significantly increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects and stillbirth.

Alcohol can harm a growing baby, causing birth defects, stillbirth and miscarriage. No one has been able to determine a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, so it’s wise to abstain altogether. Drinking alcohol can also bring down your partner’s sperm count, affecting his fertility as well.

The use of marijuana also decreases sperm density and motility and increases the number of abnormal sperm. Recreational and street drugs are dangerous for you and pose huge risks for your baby.

Women who smoke find they’re more likely to have problems getting pregnant and higher risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth and low for weight babies. Smoking in men causes damage to the DNA in sperm, while also decreasing sperm count and motility.

Babies born to mothers who smoke are at risk of SIDs, as well as health problems in their future. Passive smoking is also a risk for pregnant women and babies, so now’s a good time for your partner to stop smoking.

Caffeine & caffeinated drinks/foods

Most adults drink caffeine in some form or another, whether it’s your morning cup of tea, the coffee you ‘need’ to get through the day, or soft drink, even chocolate! And yes, we think it’s important you watch your caffeine intake.

High intake of caffeine may interfere with your ability to conceive, increase the risk of miscarriage, and of having a baby with low birth weight.

It’s best to limit your intake of caffeine to 300mg a day or avoid it as much as possible. Swap to decaffeinated coffee, try herbal or rooibos teas, and avoid energy drinks which are high in both caffeine and sugar.

Prepare for pregnancy by chilling

You might not think your emotional and mental health is related to your fertility. After all, what your brain is doing shouldn’t affect sperm meeting egg, should it?

We all experience stress and emotional upheavals. Low levels of stress occasionally are normal, we adapt and move on. It’s when we’re going through persistent high levels of stress we start to see the effects, both physically and emotionally. This can also affect fertility, as your body produces stress hormones which impact reproduction, such as interrupting your cycle and decreasing sperm quality.

Not to mention making it less likely you have the time and inclination to actually have sex at the optimal fertile time, adding to the stress of trying to conceive. Managing stress can be easier said than actually done and often couples need solid support in place to help them ease back on the stresses in their lives. Counselling can be a powerful tool, alongside therapies such as massage, yoga and exercise.

Taking stock of your current mental health is important when preparing for pregnancy. It can help you to understand what areas of your life are overwhelmed and need support.

Pregnancy doesn’t just bring physical changes, you are transitioning into a family and this can have a profound impact on you and your relationship. Take the time to invest in communication with your partner to discover how you can support each other on this exciting journey.

At Nurtured Birth we are here to support you as you prepare for pregnancy. Find out more about us and our services here.

Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth