Experiencing stress, post-partum depression or anxiety as a birth parent is normal. Navigating facing an unplanned pregnancy, being unprepared to parent, and placing for adoption is challenging and stressful. Research suggests that between 14 and 23 percent of women will experience symptoms of depression during their pregnancy. It is important to understand these feelings so you can manage them and cope with your decision to place.
Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we want to recognize how to manage adoption related stress for birth parents before, during, and after placement. As a birth parent, adoption is the chance to give your child a life full of love and opportunity.
Placing a child for adoption is an emotionally difficult decision. It’s normal for birth mothers and birth fathers to have feelings of grief and loss after placing their child for adoption. Just like for any woman, postpartum depression is possible after giving birth.
As a birth mother or a woman considering adoption, it is important to recognize the difference between normal feelings of grief and loss and post-partum depression. Placing a child for adoption is difficult and these feelings of grief may not fade through time. At Adoptions From The Heart, we recommend a degree of openness so you can have reassurance in your decision as you watch your child grow.
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder in women after they give birth. It is caused by the stress, physical and emotional factors of childbirth. Facing an unplanned pregnancy and creating an adoption plan is emotional and stressful for any woman.
Women with a family history of mental health can be at a greater risk for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can look different in every woman. There are symptoms of postpartum depression to look for after childbirth:
- Depressed or severe mood swings.
- Changes in appetite.
- Changes in sleep patterns or fatigue and loss of energy.
- Reduced enjoyment of activities that used to interest you.
- Social withdrawal.
- Intense anger or irritability.
- Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks.
- Thoughts of death, suicide or self-harm.
These symptoms can be intense and, if left untreated, can last for many months or longer. However, there is treatment for postpartum depression so if you experience the above symptoms after childbirth please consult with your doctor.
Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome:
As an adoptive parent, you waited and hoped to complete your family. So, you may be confused when you finally adopt and begin to feel overwhelmed, irritable, depressed and withdrawn. While an adjustment period is expected for new parents, these feelings may be associated with Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS).
Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is a psychological response to new experiences and to losses many adoptive parents experience. Adoption advocate June Bond coined the term after meeting new adoptive moms who experienced feelings of sadness and an absence of bonding with their babies.
Symptoms of PADS vary and not all new parents experience them at any one time. Some symptoms include: changes in mood, sleep and appetite, difficulty bonding with baby, isolating yourself, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. To learn more about PADS and how you can manage your symptoms, read our blog post https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/post-adoption-depression-pads-2/.
Coping with stress and depression post-placement:
- Work with your adoption social worker. Your social worker is available to provide emotional support and counseling when you need it throughout this journey. A social worker can prepare you for the feelings you may experience during placement and how to cope after your baby is born.
- Seek help. Your doctor may be able to screen you for signs of depression during your pregnancy and after your baby’s birth. He or she can recommend treatment for depression. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, there is treatment to manage symptoms so consult with your doctor.
- Lean on your support system. Look to your close friends and family members that you can count on for emotional support. Consider joining a birth parent support group for additional support after placement. Sharing your experience with other birth parents can be therapeutic.
- Choose an open adoption. Open adoption is not right for every person, we recommended considering some degree of openness in your adoption plan. Open adoption allows you to see your child grow up, healthy and loved, reassuring your decision to place. Watching your child grow may help relieve feelings of doubt, guilt, loss or shame that are associated with post-placement depression.
- Live a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and eating healthy are associated with relieving stress. Partaking in daily exercise allows the mind and body to relax and relieve tension and stress. Try going on a walk outside to refresh your mind. Something as simple as stretching can assist with feelings of stress or anxiousness.
Coping with stress while pregnant:
Facing an unplanned pregnancy is stressful. But it is important to learn how to cope with stress while you are expecting. Stress during your pregnancy can cause other health-related issues such as a compromised immune system which, in turn, increases your risk for infection. Stress can also lead to premature delivery and affect your baby’s birth weight and growth later in life.
There are easy ways to cope with and manage stress during your pregnancy such as:
- Concentrating on your breathing. When you are stressed, you start to breathe shallower and faster, decreasing oxygen in your body and making you more anxious. Try to find a quiet place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and take at least five deep breaths through your nose and filling your entire stomach. Relax and let the stress go as you exhale through your mouth. Look online for other sources that give tips and tricks for breathing to relieve stress!
- Remember to stretch. Stress can accumulate as tension in your muscles. Take some time during the day to stretch your neck, back, arms and legs to alleviate tight muscles. One easy stretch you can complete at work, home, or in the car is to tilt your head to the side resting your ear on your shoulder. Hold that position for 20 seconds and then alternate your head to the other shoulder.
- Low-impact exercise. Walking and yoga are great low-impact exercises for pregnant women that help to relieve feelings of anxiousness, stress and depression.
- Get enough rest. Quality sleep is so important to improve your mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will become overworked and exhausted. This can cause you to feel fatigued, irritable and lead to negative thoughts. If you have trouble sleeping at night, try taking a nap during the day to allow your body to relax.
- Sip on herbal tea. Not all teas are the same when you are pregnant, so it is important to consult your doctor to see which teas are safe. Numerous teas designed for pregnancy are on the market. Peppermint leaf helps relieve nausea and morning sickness. Peppermint tea is also stress/anxiety-friendly and can help with relaxation and sleep.
- Self-care. It is always important to remember self-care. Take time to listen to music or watch some of your favorite TV to help you unwind.
- Create a network of support. When we are feeling anxious or stressed, we tend to isolate ourselves. It is important to talk to someone about your feelings or what is bothering you. Call a friend or family member that you trust, or remember that your social worker is there to talk to you when needed.
If your feelings of depression become overwhelming, or if you have thoughts of harming yourself, seek help immediately. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time, 24/7, at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious during the adoption process. But, if you remember that you are not alone and lean on your support system, you can alleviate your worries. For more information about depression during pregnancy please look at the articles below.