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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

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 also frequently occurs with new parents of all types, including adoptive parents. When this type of depression occurs after an adotion, it is called Post-Adoptin Depression.

It is estimated that post-adoption depression affects anywhere from 18% to 26% of mothers who become parents through adoption. The research has yet to be done on adoptive fathers, but because the path to becoming an adoptive parent is similar for both mothers and fathers, the likely conclusion is that the numbers may be similar.

What Triggers Post-Adoption Depression?

Many researchers point to factors along the path toward becoming an adoptive parent as likely contributors to developing depression. These factors include:

● Extreme fatigue that occurs in new parents.

● Unrealistic expectations of parenthood.

● Lack of community support.

● 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, adoptive parents may have also experienced the emotions related to infertility, uncertainties in the legal process, relationships with birthparents and possibly even failed adoption efforts along their journey toward parenthood. 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.

Karen Foli, an assistant nursing professor and a researcher at Perdue University said, “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 birthmothers do.” This assumption may leave many adoptive parents without the help they need to begin their lives as parents.

Often, adoptive parents become confused or frustrated when, instead of feeling the immediate bliss they anticipated upon the arrival of their new baby, they find themselves feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed, tired and less supported by their community than they did during the earlier adoption process. 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.

What Are the Signs of Post-Adoption Depression?

Symptoms associated with 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 other issues, such as:

● Brain fog (the inability to focus, multitask or recall the right word when speaking).

● Scary thoughts (often imagining the worst-case scenario and attempting to mitigate risks).

● Insomnia.

● Obsessions.

● Compulsions.

● Physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea or even panic attacks.

How Is Post-Adoption Depression Treated?

Treatment for depression usually includes a combination of therapy and medication, which is generally an effective approach to resolving the problem. Furthermore, research indicates that the sooner the parent seeks treatment, the better chance they have at making a full recovery.

Individuals who believe they may be experiencing depression after an adoption placement should get in touch with a licensed counselor for evaluation and treatment.

See the links below for more information on this topic:

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