Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents

Understanding PPD in Adoptive Parents

An often overlooked aspect of postpartum depression is that it can also affect adoptive parents. While adoptive parents don’t have the same physical experience that a birth mother does, there are still 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 mothers who have recently given birth. The reasons for post-adoption depression are many. Some new adoptive parents feel that they aren’t forming the bond they’d hoped they would with their child. Others recognize that they didn’t anticipate how much work it would be and what types of lifestyle shifts it would create.

Whatever the reason is for any given set of adoptive parents, post-adoption depression remains largely unrecognized. Many adoptive parents, both new mothers and fathers, suffer from their symptoms in silence. This is perhaps because postpartum depression is associated with biological factors that many adoptive parents feel they are exempt from.

If you’re an adoptive parent struggling with post-adoption depression symptoms, know that you are not alone and 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 any other types of depression symptoms. These symptoms can be emotional, mental, physical and behavioral and can affect both men and women.

Here are the common post-adoption depression symptoms to be aware of:

  • Depressed mood
  • Ongoing sadness
  • Loss of interest in typical social or physical activities
  • Changes in weight – either 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 can also affect the child and his or her wellbeing in addition to the health of the parents.That’s because post-adoption depression can happen when it’s concerning a child of any age, from a newborn right up to a teenager.

Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents

There are many sets of risk factors that lead to the possibility of adoptive parents developing depression after their child comes into their home.

Adoptive parents place a lot of pressure on themselves to be amazing parents because they feel the added strain of the fact that their child may have come from a difficult background. With the extra pressure comes extra stress and unrealistic expectations. These emotions then turn into feelings of shame and guilt when parents cannot live up to their ideal image of parenthood. Combine that with the fact that many adoptive parents don’t form an immediate bond with their child and it creates a recipe for depression.

Here are some of the other potential risk factors that lead to developing post-adoption depression:

  • Feeling isolated from peers
  • Society’s attitude toward adoptive parents over natural parents
  • A lack of boundaries between the child and the birth parents
  • Being exhausted already from a rigorous adoption process and preparation for the child to arrive
  • Not having support from the rest of the family or friends in regards to choosing adoption

Studies have shown that these unique sets of factors faced by adoptive parents make it as likely for adoptive mothers to develop post-adoption depression as birth mothers are to develop postpartum depression.

Diagnosing Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents

Though the likelihood is there, the awareness is not when it comes to postpartum depression in adoptive parents. That’s why it still remains a largely unrecognized and underdiagnosed condition.

If you suspect that you are struggling with post-adoption depression, then it’s important to get clear on your symptoms.This way 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 to ensure it truly is depression. This way, you’re able to receive treatment immediately, instead of waiting until things worsen.

Remember that you don’t need to suffer in silence. Seeking medical attention whether it’s from a physician or a 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 which can help you to connect with other adoptive parents going through similar experiences. Be sure to 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 may include a combination of exercise, healthy eating, relaxation, spending time alone, socializing as well as meditation and yoga.

Remember that being an adoptive parent is challenging and that you are not alone in facing these struggles. By putting your own health first you can ensure that you are receiving appropriate treatment for your post-adoption depression symptoms.