Post delivery depression (postpartum “blues”) is considered to part of the birthing process. Tied to fluctuating hormones and all of the excitement and, yes, anxiety of bringing a child into the world, post delivery depression affects between 50-80% of mothers. Women report mood swings and feeling “blue” three to five days after delivery, however the these feelings typically abate within the first weeks as hormones stabilize.
Sometimes though postpartum “blues” become more severe, lapsing into postpartum depression (PDD), which affects 10-20% of new mothers. PDD has more symptoms and can last up to a year.
Are you aware that adoptive mothers often suffer similarly to mothers who have given birth? No research has been done, but a survey on 165 women by the Eastern European Adoption Coalition (EAAC) in 1999 indicated that more than 65% of them experienced feelings that mimicked postpartum “blues” and PDD after adopting, and 77% of them shared that their symptoms lasted from two months to over a year.
This phenomenon is known as post adoption depression syndrome (PADS), and may be epidemic. What are some of the reasons PADS occurs?
- The unique stresses inherent in the adoption process, coupled with fatigue and high expectations.
- The letdown after the emotionally laden goal of becoming a parent has been achieved (infertility can be additional contributing factor).
- Empathy for the birthparents’ and adopted child’s grief.
- Reality is different from fantasy.
- Parenting is hard work. Adoption can make it more so.
- A parent may not immediately love their child.
- Bonding takes longer than expected.
- Parents feel the need to be “super-parents.” After all, they’ve been through a rigorous “vetting” process.
What are the symptoms of PADS?
- Weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleep
- Feeling sad or tearful
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling unworthy or guilty
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble bonding with their child
- Thoughts of suicide
It is important to note that someone who suffers form PADS may or may not experience all of these symptoms, and someone who does not have PADS may experience a few. Most parents will at some time experience at least one of these symptoms. The concern is the lingering and intensity of the symptom(s).
Similar to postpartum delivery and postpartum depression, PADS can last anywhere from days to week to months to years. PADS can affect attachment with the child and family dynamics. The best “medicine” to treat PADS is prevention. Parents need to take care of themselves and:
- Alleviate stressors; simplifying schedules and commitments
- Become well educated about adoption and the adopted child, about what to expect
- Work at keeping their expectations low
- Eat right (healthy food) and exercise
- Trying to achieve the goal of eight hours of sleep each night
- Drink plenty of water
- Enlist a supportive group of friends and family members that help during the adjustment phase.
Parents: If someone suspects they are suffering from PADS, they should seek the help of a licensed mental health practitioner who is familiar with it and can provide treatment options.