Woman's Health Centers

When Someone You Love Needs a Choice

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Emotional Issues Related to Abortion

As a result of the anti-choice activists, most people assume that all women who have an abortion experience guilt, shame and/or grief. Many studies conducted nationally and internationally demonstrate that the most common post abortion emotion is one of relief.

Some women feel bad about themselves because they don’t feel guilt and thought they would. Each woman’s response is unique.

What kind of things might contribute to a woman feeling distress after an abortion?

  • Your hormones are changing rapidly back to a pre-pregnant state.
  • You might have seen anti-abortion propaganda with graphic pictures of fetuses that they claim are first trimester pregnancies.
  • Someone may have put pressure on you to abort or not to have the abortion.
  • You may feel isolated and unsupported. Maybe you were hoping that your partner may have reacted differently, or might have offered support throughout your experience.
  • You may have experienced a lack of family understanding and support, or you may have been pressured to carry the pregnancy of term.
  • You may be reacting to the financial stress of paying for an abortion when funds are already stretched.
  • Stress in other areas of your life may be causing a heightened emotional reaction.
  • You may have needed a bit more time in making your decision.
  • You may be worried that you will not be able to get pregnant in the future. Please know that abortion does not cause infertility.

There are many reasons that may contribute to emotional distress. For many women there is no distress at all.

For each of us there is a specific, unique set of circumstances, that leads us to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Some women feel that the social stigma associated with abortion creates an emotional conflict around the decision. This is usually not the case.

Abortion is legal. It is a choice available to women in this country, and rightfully so.

Yes, there are many people that disagree with the law. There are people that believe we should not have a right to terminate a pregnancy. Historically, people have fought against the freeing of slaves, fought against the women’s right to vote, fought against integration of our schools and many other issues. The fact that some people protest against our right to choose does not mean in any way that we should not have this right.

Most women considering aborting an unwanted pregnancy have taken into account the same issues that a woman contemplating motherhood considers.

Many factors go into the decision to abort, including:

  • A woman’s own health and medical history
  • Prior pregnancies
  • Whether a woman feels ready and/or able to be a parent
  • Rape, Incest, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Abuse
  • The stability of a woman’s relationship with her partner
  • Career and/or educational circumstances
  • The needs of existing children in the family
  • A women’s moral, religious and emotional beliefs

Most women feel that they have made the right decision. They may experience a strong feeling of relief, or a feeling of sadness. Both feelings are understandable. Sometimes women report having had both feeling at the same time. They may be relieved that they are no longer pregnant, and at the same time feel sad that they felt that this was not the right time in their life, or that the circumstances would not allow them to have a baby at this time.

Studies show that about 98% of women feel that they have made the right choice after their abortion and they remain secure with their decision. Typically, emotional stress, if present peaks just prior to the procedure and resolves soon after.

Some women report that when they are given miselading or incorrect information about abortion, it heightens their distress. Particularly if their doctor or loved ones pressure them to make a different decision.

Women who make up their own minds and feel sure of their decision usually have a more positive outcome. When pressured into keeping or aborting, a woman may experience sadness or depression from the feeling that she was not free to make her own decision, or that she has no support for her decision.

When a woman is ambivalent about her decision, she may experience more distress after her procedure.

Remember

  • Most women who have an abortion do not have any adverse emotional reaction.
  • It is not true that most women experience guilt, grief and shame.
  • Studies show that most women feel they have made the right decision.

Debunking the Myth Called Post-Abortion Syndrome

The anti-choice advocates are the force behind this myth. Almost ALL mental health professionals doubt the existence of such a syndrome. Most believe that abortion is not more stressful than any other life experience that might cause some stress in one’s life. As far back as 1992 studies showed that serious or persistent emotional problems very rarely arise from abortion. Women with pre-existing emotional problems are the most likely to have problems.

Some people are more prone to experience emotional problems after their abortion than others.

Below is a list of circumstances that may increase a woman’s chances of having an emotional reaction that she is surprised by:

  • Having a prior mental health history
  • Feeling coerced, forced or pressured
  • Moral or religious conflicts with abortion
  • Having an abortion in later stages of pregnancy
  • Lacking support from significant others or partners
  • Obtaining an abortion for genetic or fetal abnormalities