Many people have heard of Postpartum Depression, a clinical diagnosis characterized by symptoms of depression that occur after a woman gives birth to a child. What many people may not know is that a similar type of depression can also frequently occur with new parents of all types, including adoptive parents.
It is estimated that Post-Adoption Depression affects 18% – 26% of mothers who become parents through adoption. The research has yet to be done on adoptive fathers, but the fact that the path to becoming an adoptive parent is similar for both mothers and fathers, the likely conclusion is that the numbers would be similar.
Many researchers point to factors along the path towards becoming an adoptive parent as likely factors contributing to developing depression. These include the extreme fatigue that occurs after becoming a new parent, unrealistic expectations of parenthood, a lack of community support, and adjustment to a profound life change. All of these factors can seem magnified to a parent who may have the added stress of having dealt with the chaos of emotions associated with an adoption placement.
On top of becoming new parents, many adoptive parents have experienced the emotions associated with infertility, birthparent relationships, legal uncertainties, and in some cases failed adoption efforts along their path to becoming parents. This often leaves a wave of emotions that adoptive parents must sort through at a time when they are trying to redefine their life roles and adjust to the demands of caring for a newborn.
Dr. Karen Foli, an Associate Professor and researcher from Purdue University notes that, “a common thread in my research has been the assumption that if the mom didn’t carry the child for nine months or go through a physical labor, the parents don’t need help in the same manner as birth mothers do.” This assumption may leave many adoptive parents without the help they need to begin their lives as parents.
Many adoptive parents may be confused or frustrated when, instead of feeling the immediate bliss they anticipated once a new baby was placed, they find themselves feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed, tired, and less supported by their community than they did when actively working towards an adoption placement. It is important for adoptive parents to be aware that Post-Adoption Depression exists, and if it occurs they should be comfortable seeking out help.
Symptoms of Post-Adoption Depression and anxiety can include feelings of fatigue, sadness, anger, or numbness. A person experiencing this type of depression may also struggle with brain fog (the inability to focus, multi-task, or recall the right word when speaking), scary thoughts (often imagining the worst case scenario and attempting to mitigate risks), insomnia, obsessions, compulsions, and even physical symptoms including headaches, nausea, and panic attacks.
Treatment for depression usually includes a combination of therapy and medication and is typically very effective at resolving the problem. In fact, research shows that the quicker a person seeks treatment, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. Individuals who believe they may be experiencing depression after an adoption placement should contact a licensed counselor for assessment and treatment.
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