Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents

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, similar emotional and mental stresses 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. Plenty of treatment, counseling, and self-help tools are 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 well-being. 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

Many risk factors 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 comes 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 many adoptive parents not forming 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 underdiagnosed 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 can 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 health first, ensure that you receive appropriate treatment for your post-adoption depression symptoms. Team
Reviewed by:Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Medical Editor

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kimberly Langdon is a Doctor of Medicine and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1991. She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Hospitals, Department of OB/GYN. Board-Certified in 1997, she is now retired from clinical practice after a long and successful career. Currently, she is the Founder and Chief Medical Officer of a Medical Device Company that is introducing patented products to treat vaginal microbial infections without the need for drugs. She is an expert in Vaginal Infections, Menstrual disorders, Menopause, and Contraception.

Written by:

Jenna Carberg was diagnosed with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in 2016. It was a healthy birth but in the following days, Jenna's mood changed quickly. Doctors suggested that it might be the "baby blues", but her husband Chris suggested she seek a second opinion. Jenna was diagnosed with postpartum depression and began a journey that lasted 9 long months with significant ups and downs. Jenna's mental health care and her experiences became a passion for her to share with the world. She and her husband Chris founded as a support website designed to help women suffering in silence and their loved ones.

  1. Nauert, R. (2018, August 08). Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents. Retrieved from