Post-adoption Depression: A Poorly Understood Risk

Post-adoption depression: a poorly understood risk

Post-adoption depression is a usual – but not mandatory – response to all the changes that result from an adoption. The new experiences and the lack of awareness of certain needs of the adopted child sometimes cause the adoptive parents to feel overwhelmed, generating this emotional response.

It is a challenge that is not free from physical and emotional burdens. Some people will need help in this situation. The arrival of the new child at home can produce feelings of joy, happiness or euphoria. This happens with both biological and adopted children.

The predominant emotions in some parents may be negative, such as sadness or frustration. Emotions which, moreover, are also found in many biological parents after birth.

Post-adoption depression: a risk in the shadows

Unlike  depression  post-adoption Postpartum depression is recognized as a possibility after an uncomplicated pregnancy. We have made significant progress on this point in recent years. This subject is indeed today openly discussed and considered from a medical point of view in many contexts and family nuclei.

post-adoption depression in a mother

Between 50 and 80% of mothers who give birth are likely to suffer from mild postpartum depression. 10% of them can suffer seriously. The cause seems to lie in the hormonal changes.

The  depression post-adoption however has not the same social understanding. It is in a way seen as more “illogical”. This type of depression is not as accepted or understood. It comes up against statistics. The few studies carried out so far show that a high percentage of parents suffer from it.

When there is no understanding or support

Feelings of connection and bond with the adopted person usually appear  between two and six months after adoption. New adoptive mothers tend not to ask for help. They fear that someone might think they are not ready or feel guilty about it: “if you didn’t want to be a mother you should have thought about it before starting the adoption process”.

So many of these new mothers are  afraid to talk about their difficulties adjusting to their new life. Especially to psychologists and social workers. They think that others will doubt their ability to care for the adopted child if they expose their problems.

The situation, already complex, can therefore become more complicated. Consider, for example, that the average help that birth parents usually receive from their social circle after childbirth has nothing to do with the help that adoptive parents tend to receive.

post-adoption depression

Families of adoptive parents may not understand why the mother does not feel fully happy now that she finally has what she has longed for so long,  what until then was only a clear and defined desire.

These parents  then suffered in silence. They are filled with shame and guilt for fear of disappointing their families. They often wonder the same thing as their loved ones without finding any other answers than the one calling them irresponsible, guilty or capricious.

Causes of post-adoption depression

What is the reason for the high percentage of parents suffering from this type of depression? Most adoptive parents spend years trying to find a child to care for. Their long hopes, dreams and desires, not always fulfilled,  can cause unrealistic expectations as to what the condition of parents will actually be.

New parents can feel guilty about their mixed emotions. On the one hand, they love their new child. But on the other hand, they may have resentment or anger towards that child if he does not meet their expectations.

To believe in an instant connection or love at first sight with this new being is unrealistic. Falling in love with an adopted child is like falling in love with a spouse. The initial passion and euphoria soon give way to the slow and difficult process of adjusting to the daily presence of another human being.


How to deal with post-adoption depression

It will not always be easy to adapt to the new changes brought about by the adoption of a child. There are, however, a number of  guidelines that can help. They are the following:

  • When you return from the adoption place, make sure you have quality time to share.
  • Don’t feel guilty for not wanting visits. Also, accept the help you need. You won’t be a worse parent because you can’t do it all on your own.
  • Try to  extend maternity leave as much as possible.
  • Get enough sleep and made the e XERCISE. Physical exercise has been shown to improve our “emotional tone”.
  • Take your child for a walk . You will have fun together and strengthen the bonds.
  • Don’t be afraid to say it. Contact adoption forums or adoptive parent groups. Look for people with similar experiences.
  • Ask your family and friends to understand you  and respect your new decisions. Tell them that you listen to them, but that you have your own criteria. That you will be the person who has the final say in your child.
  • Set aside time for yourself and your spouse  if you have one. If you have other children, don’t neglect them and make time for them too.
  • Accept your limits  and don’t be afraid to fail. We are human beings. We are not perfect in anything, even when it comes to education.

As we have seen, post-adoption depression  is a mood disorder that often feeds on a lack of understanding (both from those around it and those who suffer from it) . Adoptive parents may be afraid that their new child will not meet the expectations created. This can make them feel deeply sad and hopeless.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself in such a situation is to seek the help of a specialist. Don’t be afraid to tell it. Healthcare professionals will understand your case. They will do their best to help you.

Why do I feel this way?  The postpartum emotional cocktail
Our thoughts Our thoughts

The most important postpartum change is the one that is not visible, the one that the mother feels inside.

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