You probably know that some gestational surrogates can experience postpartum depression. The bombardment of hormones rushing through her body (coupled with the potential emotional stressors such as not returning home with a baby) can cause this condition, which usually goes beyond mild “baby blues.”
But did you know that the new parents of a surrogacy-born child can also experience a kind of postpartum depression that’s often just as severe, even though they didn’t give birth?
All New Parents Can Experience Forms of Postpartum Depression
Even though they’re not subjected to the hormonally-triggered changes that gestational surrogates are, new parents who have welcomed a child via surrogacy can just as easily suffer from post-surrogacy depression. This is an experience that’s commonly shared by new parents who have welcomed a child via adoption, too. Many of these parents are surprised to find that they’re experiencing a form of postpartum depression — without ever having given birth to their child.
You may find yourself in a similar situation — one in which you’re surprised or are even briefly in denial that you could be experiencing postpartum depression without giving birth. However, this is not uncommon for any new parent, regardless of how your family came to be.
That’s because many of the causes of postpartum/post-surrogacy/post-adoption depression seem to be non-biological. Instead, they are a result of other common stressors.
Experiencing post-surrogacy depression can be uniquely affecting for new parents who have welcomed a child via surrogacy. You’ve likely had to work harder than most to have this child. You’ve probably been waiting for this moment for a long time, so the fact that you don’t feel like you’re “supposed to” can be even more devastating, because you’ve had to fight especially hard to become a parent.
You may be experiencing some difficulties bonding with your child. While this isn’t exclusively experienced by parents to surrogacy-born children, it’s not an uncommon obstacle in early days, and it can feed into a cycle of depression for you.
Many new parents, regardless of how they have a child, struggle with their new reality and this new person in their life. Parents are exhausted, overworked and emotionally fragile with worry for their young child.
Parents who had their child via surrogacy (or adoption) in particular have recently experienced a long and grueling emotional journey. Now that it’s over, some parents are surprised to find that it’s hard to return to normalcy after these emotional rollercoasters.
Ultimately, you need to be gentle and forgiving toward yourself for experiencing post-surrogacy depression. You’re certainly not alone, and there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
What Are the Symptoms?
People experience depression in different ways, but some of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression for new parents include:
- Depression and mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Intense irritability and/or anxiety
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Avoidance of the baby
- Obsessive worrying about the baby or fixations on small anxieties
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Sometimes, the person experiencing the postpartum depression isn’t the one who first notices the changes in themselves. A friend or family member is often the first person to spot changes in mood or behavior.
If someone you love has suggested that you might be experiencing post-surrogacy depression, listen to what they have to say. If you feel that someone you know might be suffering from post-surrogacy depression, gently reach out and ask how they’re feeling.
Not sure what a normal post-surrogacy recovery should be like? Contact a surrogacy specialist at American Surrogacy.
Reading the stories of others who have battled postpartum depression, particularly those who have experienced it after going through IVF, surrogacy, or adoption, can sometimes bring comfort to new parents via surrogacy and also help them recognize symptoms in themselves.
What Can You Do to Treat Post-Surrogacy Depression?
You may need to try a few options to find what works best for you, but there are a number of ways to help ease the symptoms of post-surrogacy depression, including:
- Talking to your loved ones. Lean on them for emotional support, as well as practical support for things like taking care of the baby when you need a short break.
- Counseling or therapy. Reach out to your American Surrogacy licensed social worker or contact a therapist, preferably one who has experience with postpartum depression and surrogacy.
- Many people are hesitant to try medications like antidepressants or antianxiety medications, but for some, even a low dose can help get you back in balance. Talk to your doctor.
- Talking to people who have been in your shoes. Find support groups with parents to surro-born babies and ask them about their experiences with post-surrogacy depression. It can be helpful to talk with people who have had similar experiences.
Continuing to care for yourself physically, even when it feels difficult, will also do a lot to improve your mental and emotional state. Exercise regularly, stay hydrated, eat healthy and take moments to relax or meditate. These can seem low-priority as a new parent, but caring for yourself physically can help keep some of the minor symptoms of post-surrogacy depression at bay and help you to continue caring for your family.
If you ever experience suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please call 1-800-273-8255 immediately.
Remember that any new parent can experience forms of postpartum depression, including parents via surrogacy. This is something that affects many people, and it’s not something you need to experience alone. Contact American Surrogacy at 1-800-875-BABY(2229) if you ever need to connect to more resources to help with post-surrogacy depression.