Are you experiencing emotional side effects after an abortion? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 33% of American women have an abortion at some point in their lives.
Abortion affects every woman differently in terms of the emotions experienced, and many experience psychological complications. In fact, women who have elective abortions are at greater risk of mental health problems than women who have miscarriages or give birth.
Feelings of guilt, shame, depression and even self-harm have been reported in studies of women who have experienced abortion.
Let’s take a look at how an abortion procedure may affect your emotional well-being, along with some helpful tips for women considering abortion and those recovering from abortion.
Symptoms of Post Abortion Syndrome
Psychologists have identified a condition called post-abortion syndrome. It is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can affect post-abortive women in one of two ways.
- The painful event keeps coming to mind. The woman may suffer from “triggers,” such as being around babies or pregnant women, that remind her of the abortion. Other women have abortion-themed nightmares which arouse intense feelings of grief.
- The event becomes suppressed. Over time, some women will experience emotional numbness. The suppressed grief causes emotional toxicity that can present itself in the form of unexplained anger, depression or difficulty forming healthy relationships with future partners or children.
There are a number of possible symptoms of post-abortion syndrome:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Eating disorders
- Avoidance of children or pregnant women
- Flashbacks to the abortion itself
Risk Factors for Emotional Side Effects from Abortion
While not all women will experience emotional side effects, some are at greater risk than others. The following circumstances may increase the risk of psychological issues after abortion.
- If the abortion is coerced or chosen under pressure from others. Some women feel they have “no choice” because of threats or pressure from partners, parents, friends and others. Sometimes abortion doctors ignore a woman’s request to stop the procedure.
- Women who have a medical abortion may be more likely to suffer nightmares, flashbacks and other psychological trauma.
- Women with a prior history of physical or sexual abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Little or no support system. Women who avoid talking about their experience with others, or feel they have no one to turn to for emotional support, may suffer more psychological side effects.
- Women whose religious or ethical beliefs conflict with abortion.
- Women who have late-term abortions.
- Women who have abortions due to fetal or genetic abnormalities.
What to Do If You’re Considering Abortion
If you have an unplanned pregnancy, there are several steps you can take to help you make a healthy decision.
- Get help. Seek out trained professionals or volunteers who can answer your questions and discuss individual circumstances with you. For example, Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers provide free pregnancy options counseling that includes medically accurate information about abortion.
- Avoid isolation. When you have an unplanned pregnancy it may be tempting to keep it a secret out of embarrassment or fear of rejection by family members or your partner. This can actually raise the risk of depression. It’s essential to stay connected with family and friends while making your decision.
- Evaluate your circumstances. Your circumstances may put you at higher risk for emotional side effects. That’s why it’s important to seek out truthful information that you can trust.
- Avoid pressure. Your pregnancy decision is yours alone and no one else can make it for you. Avoid those who may be pressuring you to have an abortion or who tell you it’s the only option.
- Talk to others. If possible, talk to someone who has had an unplanned pregnancy or abortion and learn from their experience.
Get Help with Abortion Recovery
The good news is that emotional healing after abortion is possible. Post-abortive women need a judgment-free zone to work through their symptoms, a safe place to grieve and have their feelings validated.
Mosaic PHC offers free abortion recovery services for women struggling with a past abortion, whether you had the procedure recently or several years ago. Led by fellow post-abortive women, the program leads you through the stages of denial, anger and grief, so that you can experience forgiveness, redemption and letting go. The program also includes the informative book Her Choice to Heal by Sydna Masse.
If you need help with abortion recovery, or assistance in making a pregnancy decision, we’re here to help.
Contact Mosaic PHC to set up a free, confidential appointment.