Just as biological mothers can experience postpartum blues or depression, so too can adoptive moms (and dads).
There are so many emotions involved in becoming a parent, and for those who become parents nearly overnight, there can be the added stress of doing everything at the last minute. Coupled with sleep deprivation and complicated feelings of guilt associated with birth parents, it’s no wonder so many adoptive parents experience post adoption depression.
The good news is that you are not alone. There are thousands of adoptive parents out there coping with the same feelings you are. And even better, there is help available.
So, What is Post Adoption Depression?
Post Adoption Depression is characterized by feelings of overwhelming sadness or anxiety after bringing your baby home. These feelings can be brought on by a number of factors including:
- Sleep deprivation
- The stress of becoming parents overnight (literally)
- Feelings of guilt associated with the child’s birth parents
- Lack of a support system of other adoptive parents
- Lack of socialization
Left untreated, post adoption depression can have negative impacts on a parent’s health and wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of the child.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of post adoption depression vary widely and not all new parents will experience all of these symptoms at any one time. Some parents may have only one or two of these symptoms, that does not mean he or she is not experiencing post adoption depression
- Depressive mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Isolating yourself from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or binge eating
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Intense irritability and anger
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Fear that you are not a good parent
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Inability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Some changes in mood and exhaustion are expected in new parents; however, should any of these symptoms last longer than 2-3 weeks you should seek help from your doctor or Adoptive Family Specialist.
When it comes to coping with post adoption depression there are a number of things you can do to help ease your feelings of despair.
Remember that you’re not alone. Research shows that approximately 18 to 26 percent of new adoptive mothers deal with depressive symptoms. Don’t think that you are the only one experiencing these feelings and know that you’re not a terrible person for feeling them. Parenting is hard, no matter how it came to you.
Bonding with your child can take time. Not every parent feels an instant bond with their child, even among biological parents. Don’t give up hope and know that your bond will continue to strengthen and grow in the days, months and years to come.
Get plenty of rest. I know, easier said than done right? Lack of sleep can be a major contributing factor of post adoption depression, so it’s important that you get as much rest as possible. Take your family and friends up on their offers to care for the baby so you can take a short nap. Split night time feedings and changes with your partner so you can both get some much needed z’s.
Have realistic expectations. After jumping through all of the adoption hoops it is common for adoptive parents to believe they have to be perfect parents. This title is nearly impossible to live up to and can contribute to your depressive symptoms. You’re doing the best you can and that is what is perfect for your family.
Seek help. Don’t hesitate to talk to your Adoptive Family Specialist about how you are feeling. They are there any time to answer questions and offer support during this time of transition. You might also consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor or a therapist who is familiar with this type of depression.
For more information on post adoption depression please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
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