After months of patience and sacrifice, delivering the baby to the intended parents is a beautiful and emotional moment for the surrogate. She may also experience a feeling of loss as her journey comes to an end, and this may have nothing to do with placing the baby with his or her parents. Some surrogates may experience nostalgia for the surrogacy process, or simply a void after having completed such an emotional journey.
As always, ConceiveAbilities is here to help. This post will cover the various reasons for post-pregnancy sadness, and the treatment and medication options that may alleviate the symptoms.
Baby blues and postpartum depression are often used interchangeably to describe the change in mood after a woman delivers a child. In reality, the two illnesses are very different.
Baby blues affect 70-80% of new mothers, and can last for a few minutes, a few hours, or up to two weeks. Symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, and random bouts of sadness, anxiety, and irritability.
Conversely, postpartum depression affects 10-20% of new mothers, and if left untreated, can last months or years. Symptoms are largely similar to the baby blues, but are much more intense and can result in severe detachment from friends and family.
The exact cause for post-baby blues and postpartum depression remains unsolved, but there are a few explanations. The most common theory is the change in hormone levels during pregnancy. When a woman gives birth, her estrogen and progesterone levels drop. The quick change in hormone levels could result in a chemical change within the brain, resulting in clinical depression.
Another theory is the sleep deprivation caused by pregnancy, as it can disrupt a daily routine the surrogate may be accustomed to. Combined with emotions after nine months of pregnancy, childbirth can be an intensely emotional moment, but it can also linger for some time afterwards.
Some other reasons include:
The end of the surrogacy journey. Right before the birth, there is a lot of excitement and uncertainty in preparing for the baby. It usually entails constant communication between the gestational carrier and the intended parents. After the birth, the parents are usually busy looking after the child, and so communication may drop off, leaving the surrogate feeling left behind.
Postpartum without the baby. Surrogates have to recover from postpartum without the baby. For some, this can make it more difficult, as there might be a jarring shift in responsibility. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that surrogates experience postpartum depression more severely than traditional mothers.
Feelings of insecurity. It’s no secret that women tend to gain weight during pregnancy, and they may not immediately lose it. Surrogates face a unique challenge, because not only do they have baby weight, but there is no baby to “show for it.” This may be challenging for some surrogates.
Some women have a higher risk of postpartum depression due to preexisting medical conditions or traumatic experience, such as:
Fortunately, there are some ways to help combat or alleviate the severe effects of postpartum depression.
Talking to family and friends. Postpartum depression can feel lonely, especially since it’s an experience limited to recently pregnant women. Surrounding one’s self with loved ones can help keep the sadness at bay.
Counseling or Therapy. Sometimes the depression may be too severe and even your close family may find difficulty helping you. In these cases, it might be best to contact a medical health professional, such as a counselor, psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker.
Medication. There are various medications for treating postpartum depression, such as antidepressants, that can help mitigate the pain. Consult with your doctor before taking any of these, as it may have side effects or affect your ability to breastfeed.
Take your health seriously, but be easy on yourself. You may want to request additional leave from work to recuperate. Remember that postpartum depression affects countless women each year, so you’re never alone and there’s always help and resources to be found.
If you or someone you’re concerned about have contemplated suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 immediately (they are available 24/7). Also be sure to check out MentalHealth.gov and The National Institute of Mental Health for additional information and resources.
If you have more questions or concerns following a recent surrogacy birth, send us a message and we will do our best to assist or direct you to the best resources.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.