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Post-Adoption Depressive Syndrome: It's Not Unusual to Feel Sad After an Adoption

Anxiety Disorders

The adoption process is a long and arduous journey, at the end of which you likely thought you would feel nothing but elation and overflowing love for your new baby. However, if you are feeling sad, anxious or conflicted instead, you're not alone.

While post-adoptive depressive syndrome (PADS) is not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the condition exists and was brought to light in the mid-1990s, though it was likely a relatively common thing for adoptive women to experience well before that. One study conducted in 1999 revealed that an estimated 65 percent of women who had adopted children from Eastern Europe exhibited symptoms of PADS.

A New York Times article reported that just 8 percent of those women were advised by their adoption agencies that they might develop signs of depression. Additionally, the news source said that 77 percent of women with PADS reported symptoms lasting two months to one year. Seventy percent also said that the condition was getting in the way of bonding with their new child.

Some physicians believe that postpartum depression results from hormonal imbalances. However, some psychologists say the feelings of sadness experienced by a new mother, whether following pregnancy or adoption, largely come from the demands put upon them, as well as feelings of loss stemming from a less active social life and detachment from one's career.

In addition to the changes that every mother goes through, women who adopt face other issues, such as feelings of disconnection from their new child or worries that they have not immediately fallen in love with their son or daughter. Moreover, adoptive mothers are often so busy with the process of getting their new child that they do not prepare themselves mentally for parenthood.

If you think you may be experiencing PADS, talk to your health care professional about further evaluation. Depression can seriously interfere with your ability to care for yourself and your child.

If you aren't sure whether to seek help for a mood disorder or emotional problem, ask yourself, "Could I use some help right now?" The questions below may help you decide:

  • Is the problem interfering with your work, relationships, health or medical conditions or other aspects of your personal life?
  • Have you been feeling less happy, less confident and less in control than usual for a period of several weeks or longer?
  • Have close, trusted friends or family members commented on changes in your behavior and personality?
  • Have your own efforts to deal with a problem failed to change your behavior or improve the situation?
  • Is dealing with everyday problems more of a struggle than before?
  • Are you having suicidal thoughts?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, talk to your health care professional immediately about how you are feeling.

Various treatments are available, including antidepressants, counseling or a combination of both.

If your symptoms are not severe, you may want to try spending more time with your new child. Bonding is an important part of your son's or daughter's development and strengthens your relationship with them.

Additionally, remember to take care of yourself during this difficult time. This means eating right, exercising and avoiding drugs or excessive alcohol consumption.

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