Do you require psychological counseling after you have had an abortion?
Most women do not need any psychological help after an abortion. Feelings of regret after abortion are rare. Indeed, the most common emotional response after abortion is relief. Transient feelings of guilt, sadness, or loss are common but most women can overcome negative feelings that might affect them. It is normal to feel emotional after an abortion. While you may experience sadness or grief, these feelings usually go away after a few days. But in countries where the taboo and social stigma is big, it is more common for women to suffer feelings of guilt and shame.
If you are not sure if a medical abortion treatment is right for you, we encourage you to discuss it with a trusted friend.
How do women feel after an abortion?
Every woman is unique in how she feels after an abortion. Most women report feeling a sense of relief that they have made the best decision under the circumstances. This is the most common response. For some women, however, abortion can raise a number of emotional responses including sadness, guilt, rage, shame and regret. Some women feel bad about themselves because they don’t feel guilty about having an abortion, but think they should feel guilty. In general, understanding your emotional pain can help you to begin to let go of the grief, guilt, rage or shame you may be feeling. It is important to acknowledge that you are hurting and to take good care of yourself if you are experiencing difficulty.
You are not a bad person because you had an abortion. You are also not alone in having chosen abortion. Many women are surprised to learn that about 42 million women worldwide have abortions each year.
What kinds of things might contribute to a woman feeling distress after an abortion?
Your hormones are changing back to their pre-pregnancy state. This chemical change can cause feelings of sadness and weepiness. Someone else may have pressured you into having an abortion, rather than letting you make the decision for yourself
You might not have much support from your friends or family. Isolation is a major reason that women may find themselves in distress after an abortion.
You might feel very divided inside about your decision to have an abortion. It may not have been clear to you that abortion was the right decision in your circumstances.
You may feel abandoned and alone. Maybe your were hoping the man who got you pregnant would want to have a baby with you. Maybe he was not willing to do that, contributing to your sadness.
Perhaps you have low self-esteem and often feel bad about yourself.
Other parts of your life may be very stressful — school, your job, your kids etc.
You might fear that you will never again be able to get pregnant. If this is a worry to you, be assured that a safe medical abortion does not cause infertility in the future.
Anytime you make a difficult decision, it is natural to worry "what if I had made a different choice?" and to agonize over the decision.
Abortion may bring up old experiences or feelings you have been repressing. For instance, if sexual abuse is a part of your past, you may find yourself re-living feelings related to your abuse. Feeling vulnerable about the pregnancy and abortion may trigger you to remember a time in the past when you felt frightened and vulnerable.
Is it normal to feel depressed after an abortion?
In rare cases, women may become clinically depressed after having an abortion. If your feelings are overwhelming and do not seem to be resolving or you are suffering symptoms of depression, you should consult a professional.
There are some factors which are known to contribute to the risk of depression after abortion, including having a history of depression, anxiety or panic. Depression is a very serious illness. It is extremely important that you seek help from a professional such as a doctor, counsellor or therapist if you believe you are depressed.
What is “Post-abortion Syndrome"?
A general consensus has been reached in the medical and scientific communities that most women who have abortions experience little or no psychological harm. However, many people who are opposed to abortion claim that women who have had abortions will suffer from a type of post-traumatic stress disorder called “post-abortion syndrome".
Reliable, unbiased studies have shown that, although psychological disturbances do occur after abortion, they are uncommon and generally mild and short-lived.
Most psychiatric experts doubt the existence of “post-abortion syndrome and point out that abortion is not significantly different from any other stressful life experience that might cause trauma in some people.
What can I do to help myself heal after an abortion?
After an abortion, there are concrete things you can do to help you come to terms with your decision. The following suggestions can help you accept and deal with your feelings, make your feelings of sadness go away and help you reach some "closure" to your abortion experience.
Allowing yourself to express any sadness and grief that you are feeling will help it to diminish. You won't always feel this way.
Don't be hard on yourself. Talk to yourself in ways that are affirmative. You are a good person. You are a moral person.
Remind yourself that you are brave -- you made a difficult decision.
Remind yourself why you made the decision to have an abortion.
Remember you made the best decision you could under the circumstances.
Ask yourself, if you hope to have a planned pregnancy some day, how would it differ from the situation you have just been in?
Write your feelings down in a journal or special book which no one else will see.
Think about things you can do which will make you feel good. Write them down and try to do several of these each day.
Remind yourself of the future. Make a list of things you are looking forward to doing.
Consider creating an "end" to your relationship with your pregnancy by writing a good-bye letter and keeping it in a safe place or burning it.
Practice relaxation exercises to help deal with stress.
Different women have different feelings about and experiences with abortion. Psychological studies show that women do not suffer for prolonged periods of time due to abortions they choose to have. These studies show that women can overcome negative feelings that might affect them. “Multiple studies have demonstrated that feelings of regret after abortion are rare. Indeed, the most common emotional response after abortion is relief. Transient feelings of guilt, sadness, or loss are common, but no evidence indicates that routine counseling is essential or even beneficial in coping with these feelings 1 . Evidence suggests that most women do not need counseling after an abortion 1 .