Can Adoptive Parents get the “Baby Blues” Too?

January 20, 2016 | Posted In Featured | Share

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After a baby is born, it’s not uncommon for the mother or father to experience a period of depression referred to as the “Baby Blues.” In more severe cases, these feelings are called postpartum depression.

It’s less known, but just as common, for adoptive parents to experience a similar depression soon after a child is placed in their home. The term for adoptive parents is Post Adoption Depression Syndrome, or PADS.

What are the symptoms of PADS?

The symptoms that adoptive parents (and their close friends and family) should be aware of are the same symptoms that indicate depression in any situation. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is defined as a person experiencing five or more of the following symptoms over a two week period or longer:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, everyday (feeling sad, empty, or tearful) or feeling exceptionally irritable.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities.
  3. Significant weight loss or weight gain, increase or decrease in appetite.
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day.
  8. Suicidal thoughts or ideation.

What are the main causes of PADS?

There are several possible causes of depression after adoption. Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Often after meeting a life goal that you’ve been working towards for a long time there is a period of depression that follows the initial euphoria. Adoptive parents may have waited for years for a child to be placed in their home. All the while the desire to be a parent grows. Once they become a parent, there is a huge happiness and relief, but after a few weeks or months of the realities of parenthood, they may experience some disenchantment.
  2. Adoptive parents may also face numerous questions by friends, families, and strangers about why they chose to adopt. If they did experience infertility issues, the questions can bring up difficult emotions once again.
  3. If an adoption is “open,” the parents may have some kind of relationship with the birth mother. In this case, it’s possible that some of the sadness of the birth mother is transferred to the adoptive couple.
  4. Just like “Baby Blues” after birth, adoptive parents may feel some depression because of the heightened stress of parenthood. They have more responsibility, finances may be tighter, they might lose sleep, and they may not bond with the child as quickly as they expected.

What are some ways to prevent or alleviate PADS?

The first step to preventing or helping lessen the affects of PADS is to know that it exists. Many adoptive parents think that they are abnormal or bad parents for feeling depressed after an adoption. Speaking more openly about the prevalence of Post Adoption Depression can be a huge benefit to parents. Here are some other ideas that may help:

  1. Go to a parenting class before adopting. These classes are often offered by local hospitals, but your adoption agency or a counseling agency may have other resources. It’s always helpful to gain information before becoming a parent.
  2. Join a support group of adoptive parents. Right before your adoption, or soon after, you may find it useful to join a group of other adoptive parents so you can discuss and share your experiences and advice.
  3. Take plenty of time off work, if possible. Not all companies offer maternity and paternity leave for adoptive parents, but some do. Be aware of how much time you’ll be allowed off work and take as much as you can.
  4. Give yourself time to adjust to parenthood. Try not to worry about dishes, cleaning, or cooking. As difficult as it may be to leave housework undone, it’s important to focus on spending time with your child and spouse, especially in the beginning. Take advantage of friends, family, and your church who can offer support by providing meals and helping with other errands.
  5. Understand that bonding with your child can sometimes take a long time. You may have ideas of what life will be like with your child, but reality can often look very different than our expectations. Consider attending an Empowered to Connect conference to learn more about adoption, attachment, and bonding with your child.

For more information, as well as helpful resources about PADS, please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

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