Understanding PPD in Adoptive Parents
Postpartum depression can also affect adoptive parents. Adoptive parents do not have the same physical experience that a birthmother does. However, there are similar emotional and mental stresses that come with welcoming a new child into the home.
Often referred to as post-adoption depression, this mood disorder can be just as crippling as postpartum depression is in new mothers. The reasons for post-adoption depression are many. Some new adoptive parents feel they are not forming the bond they hoped they would with their child. Others underestimate the work and lifestyle shifts that come from adopting a child.
Still, post-adoption depression remains largely unrecognized. Many adoptive parents—both new mothers and fathers—suffer from their symptoms in silence. This is often because postpartum depression is associated with biological factors that many adoptive parents feel they are exempt from.
If you are an adoptive parent struggling with post-adoption depression symptoms, you are not alone. There are plenty of treatment, counseling and self-help tools available to help you cope with your new parenthood.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
The symptoms of postpartum depression in adoptive parents are similar to symptoms of other depression types. These symptoms can be emotional, mental, physical and behavioral. They can affect both men and women.
Common post-adoption depression symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Ongoing sadness
- Loss of interest in typical social or physical activities
- Weight loss or gain
- Changes in appetite
- Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Chronic fatigue and lack of energy
- Anxiousness over being a good enough parent
- Feeling agitated and irritable
- Becoming easily frustrated with yourself, the child or others
- Guilt and shame
- Indecisiveness and inability to concentrate
Post-adoption depression not only affects new parents. It can also affect the child and their wellbeing. This is because post-adoption depression can occur when the child is of any age, from a newborn to a teenager.
Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
There are many risk factors that lead to the development of depression in adoptive parents after their child comes into their home.
Adoptive parents place a lot of pressure on themselves, especially if their child may have come from a difficult background. The extra pressure leads to extra stress and unrealistic expectations. These emotions become feelings of shame and guilt if the parents cannot live up to their idealized view of parenthood.
This pressure, combined with the fact that many adoptive parents do not form an immediate bond with their child, creates a recipe for depression.
Other risk factors that may lead to post-adoption depression include:
- Feeling isolated from peers
- Society’s attitude toward adoptive parents over natural parents
- A lack of boundaries between the child and the birth parents
- Exhaustion from a rigorous adoption process and preparation for the child to arrive
- Not having support from the rest of the family or friends
The factors faced by adoptive parents make it as likely for adoptive mothers to develop post-adoption depression as birth mothers are to develop PPD.
Diagnosing Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
Many people are unaware of the likeliness of postpartum depression in adoptive parents. Therefore, it is largely unrecognized and under-diagnosed condition.
If you suspect that you are struggling with post-adoption depression, it is important to get clear on your symptoms. Then, you can visit a physician, explain your symptoms and be assessed for post-adoption depression.
Many doctors will look at these symptoms and use a depression screening questionnaire. This method ensures you are able to receive treatment immediately, instead of waiting until things worsen.
You do not need to suffer in silence. Seeking help from a physician or mental health professional is imperative for your personal health and the health of your child.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
Treatment for post-adoption depression is similar to any other kind of postpartum depression treatment. A combination of medication, such as antidepressants, and therapy will help ease the symptoms of postpartum depression in adoptive parents.
Additional treatments may include counseling, support groups or online forums. These options help you to connect with other adoptive parents going through similar experiences. Work with your doctor and mental health care provider to develop a long-term post-adoption depression treatment plan.
Self-Help for Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents
Another way to treat post-adoption depression is to develop a set of self-help tools. These practices may include exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, taking time for yourself, socializing, meditation and yoga.
Being an adoptive parent is challenging. You are not alone in your struggles. As you put your own health first, you ensure that you are receiving appropriate treatment for your post-adoption depression symptoms.