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The truth about post-infertility and post-adoption depression

After having their babies, many mothers struggle with post-partum depression. For decades, mothers suffered in silence, worried about the stigma associated with a very real sickness. People thought that new mothers should be ecstatic about their baby and could not understand any sadness or mourning during the happy time.

Recently, this discussion about post-partum depression (PPD) came up again as Hayden Panettiere checked herself in for treatment for PPD. This is a brave move for Hayden to admit she is sick and needs help when mothers in the past refused to draw attention to their suffering. Hayden’s openness about getting help as well as other mothers who are talking about their struggles have opened up discussion and understanding about PPD.

However, people don’t usually discuss the implications of having had difficulty conceiving. Every mother has the potential to be affected with PPD, even those who have gone through infertility treatments or adoption. This is commonly known as post-infertility or post-adoption depression.

New mothers who suffer from post-infertility and post-adoption depression have an extra layer of guilt than those who conceived easily. Mothers who grew their families with the help of infertility treatments and adoption believe they should be incredibly appreciative of what they have. They spent money and time working to grow their family, and they believe they don’t have the right to be sad over something they worked so hard to achieve.

Yet, mothers who have grown their families via infertility treatments or adoption actually have additional stressors to trigger PPD.

For instance, financial troubles after spending so much to grow their families provides a greater risk of being stressed, anxious or depressed. Furthermore, adoptive parents are not only navigating the same adjustments biological parents have to make, but they also have to think about relationships with birth parents, fears they carry over bonding with their child and even battling with their employer to receive maternity leave. Also, sadly, if a mother who has gone through infertility treatments or adoption admits she is suffering, she is less likely to receive support and understanding from her family, partner and friends.

While more people are becoming understanding of PPD, the discussion for these mothers is still very far away from being compassionate. This means that these parents have more stressors and receive less support, yet many do not recognize that post-infertility and post-adoption depression is real.

The truth is, no matter how a mother arrives to parenthood, it is a huge adjustment. There is a belief that PPD is a hormonal imbalance that causes depression, yet it’s also about the adjustment and the personal losses that accompany the gains of motherhood, which is further supported by the timing of the onset. It’s not just something that happens as your hormones respond in the days after birth; PPD can occur anytime during the child’s first year. For adoptive parents, this depression can also hit anytime during the first year of parenting.

It is so good that we are able to talk about post-partum depression and allow new mothers, like Hayden Panettiere, to receive help. Now, the discussion needs to expand to those who arrive at parenthood through infertility treatments or adoption. No matter how badly a mother wanted her child, the adjustment period and external stressors can still trigger depression. Understanding what mothers may go through after bringing their baby home and offering support to help them will do wonders.

Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. She is also the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility. You can visit that website at Beyond Infertility.

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