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January 11, 2013

After adopting a baby, depression can hit

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"When an adoptive parent struggles in adjusting to the new role of parenthood, she or he may hear 'But this was your life goal! You got what you wanted!' " says Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor at Purdue's School of Nursing and a co-author of the study along with Purdue's Susan South and Eunjung Lim.

Foli, who also co-authored the book "The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforeseen Challenges of Adoption," says that adoptive parents' unrealistic expectations, often sky-high after a long period of waiting to become a parent, can clash with the day-to-day demands of child care.

In fact, says Lisa Catapano, an assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center, all new parents, biological or adoptive, contend with the same challenges that contribute to depression: "Sleep deprivation, a change in your relationship with your partner, a greater need for help from others, the stress of caring for a new baby, the change in your identity" and, for biological mothers, "hormonal shifts." While adoptive parents "may not have the hormonal changes," the other stressors are there, says Catapano, who treats both adoptive and biological mothers for depression.

For these reasons, PAD comes as a nasty surprise to some new adoptive mothers.

"Adoptive parents often have this sense that they are going to be a 'super parent,' " says Anne Pearce, director of adoption services with Baltimore's Board of Child Care, a private adoption agency. "But sometimes people are surprised or disappointed by some aspects of parenting: the exhaustion, or missing being in the workplace after looking forward for so long to being with a baby. I tell my clients, 'Whatever you are surprised by is no surprise.' "

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