For Those Who Feel Guilt After An Abortion
Guilt and regret are very powerful and are often misunderstood feelings. Guilt is the feeling that results when a person believes she has done something wrong. Regret is the desire to change something that has already happened.
After an abortion a woman may feel sad and bad and confused. These feelings of sadness and loss may be misinterpreted as guilt and regret through a process of faulty logic this: If I chose to have the abortion and I feel sad and bad about it, it must have been the wrong decision.Therefore, I should feel guilty and regret my choice to have an abortion.
Having an abortion can be unusual circumstance for some women. A woman may feel very sad about her loss of the pregnancy and since she chose to have the abortion, she becomes both the sufferer of the loss and the person who caused the loss; this can lead a woman to emotionally beat herself up. Guilt and regret are the weapons she uses to do this.
It is helpful that a woman look realistically at why she chose to have an abortion. Often, this is the logic that is truer:
I chose to have an abortion. It is a loss. It was a difficult choice to make and I am very sad about it. I deeply regret that the situation wasn’t different. I wish I were in a time and place where I could have parented or placed a child for adoption. I made the best decision I could at the time with the resources that I had.
Let’s look at each of these compelling emotions separately.
Guilt is the feeling that you have done something wrong. Feeling guilty after an abortion can happen for several reasons: A woman feels sad and disappointed that she didn’t live up to her own beliefs.
She may believe that she disappointed someone else by not meeting their expectations. She may worry that she will be found out or punished. A woman may wallow in guilt as a self punishment.
She may think she owes an emotional price for having had an abortion.
Although sometimes guilt has a positive outcome, it can be very harmful. Guilt may act as a temporary motivator for a woman to change some part of her life; however, it is mostly draining, damaging and destructive.Guilt is relational. That is, you can only feel guilty within a belief system that says what you did is wrong. When a woman is in the middle of emotional chaos, she cannot be objective, that is, she cannot see things from a higher place. If a woman gives herself some time and remembers why she made the decision she did, she may come to see her situation from a different perspective.
It can be difficult to move through guilt without some assistance. When we spend a lot of time in our own thoughts, we can drive ourselves crazy. If you are feeling guilty, seek out a helpful person: a friend, family member or a professional counselor, those at Options Sexual Health Association (780 423 3737) or Woman’s Health Options (780 484 1124).
It is important to figure out exactly what you are feeling guilty about in order to move beyond the negative feelings. Try writing: œI am feeling guilty because… Write as many answers as possible.
A woman may write she feels guilty because: she has ended a life ~ she is selfish ~ she must suffer or she won’t be forgiven ~ she let herself get pregnant ~ she pushed her partner away ~ she is guilty because she doesn’t feel bad about having an abortion.
Once a woman has identified why she is feeling guilty it can be helpful to remember why she made the decision to have an abortion. Try writing: I had an abortion because: It is important to keep in mind that all women have abortion for different reasons and often there are many factors that lead to a woman’s decision to have an abortion; one reason is no less important than another.
Make sure your reasons are fairly concrete. It doesn’t help to write: I had an abortion because: I am a dork. You will only feel bad about yourself and will not gain any insight. This is where it can be helpful to have another person to talk with about your feelings.
Once you have recognized what is causing you to feel guilty then absolve yourself from it; find a way to forgive yourself.
Self-forgiveness will come in changing the way you think about yourself and how you treat yourself. Try following some of the coping after abortion tips. Think about healthy and constructive ways to channel your intense feelings, such as creating visual art, writing a poem or story or doing some volunteer work.Rituals or ceremonies can be a constructive way to gain self forgiveness. You can use the following link to get an idea about what a forgiveness ritual looks .
Only when a woman decides that she deserves forgiveness will she be able to move forward.
Negative self talk is common when a person experiences feelings of guilt. Changing the negative talk into positive talk will ly relieve negative feelings. Using positive affirmations can be an effective way to change the way a woman thinks about her abortion decision.
We often overuse or misuse the word regret. If you are saying I regret having an abortion, make sure you are not confusing regret with sadness about one of the many losses you may be feeling. Any feelings of sadness and loss need to be recognized and grieved. A woman who identifies some the losses she is feeling will better be able to cope with these strong feelings.
It can be frightening if you are experiencing emotions that are more intense than you expected.
Sometimes when we are feeling confused and sad or guilty we use the term regret, because we don’t know how to cope with such intense emotions.
It is easier to say if I had never had an abortion, I wouldn’t be feeling this way now rather than dealing with the feelings. (This intensity is a sign you should be talking to a friend or counselor).
True regret is when you wish you had made a different decision even if placed in the exact same circumstances in the exact same place and time.
Women make the decision to have an abortion many inter-related factors (ex: poverty, single parenthood, relationship break-up, family violence, etc) Often the situation and circumstance around the pregnancy are the main factors that influence a woman to choose abortion.
It is important to remember that situation and circumstance are sometimes unchangeable no matter how much we wish they were different.There are many reasons why a woman might feel regretful after having an abortion. She may feel: ~ she didn’t live up to her own beliefs and values ~ weak for not wanting to give birth or place a child for adoption ~ she didn’t have all the information she needed at the time to make a decision.
To ease regret or help to avoid this kind of thinking, try writing a letter to yourself and then putting it away to look at later if needed. In the letter describe the circumstances you were in and the reasons you chose to have an abortion. Write a little bit about how you are feeling and who you have shared with or not and why.
As time passes after an event, for good or bad, our memories fade. It is easier to look back on a situation and recreate it for our own purpose now, than to remember it accurately. If you write a letter close to when you had the abortion, you can put it away to read later if needed. This way you’ll be able to remember what you were going through at the time you made this decision.
Regret is a powerful weapon in hurting yourself, but other than that, it truly serves no useful purpose. A person can regret something forever and that doesn’t change a thing. All this will do is keep you stuck in the past, unable to move forward, feel joy and learn from your experience.
It can be much harder to let go of regret than to hang on to it. A woman who learns to let go of her regret can turn that self-destructive energy into more constructive pursuits: art of all forms, volunteer work, nurturing others and herself.
Experiencing intense emotions after an abortion can sometimes mean that the feelings surrounding the abortion have reopened old emotional wounds.
A woman who can identify where her feelings are coming from can gain insight into her life and how she can change things to feel better about herself.
As difficult as it can be, use this as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than to stay stuck and depressed.If you are experiencing intense feelings, of regret or other emotions, talk to a counselor. These feelings can be very difficult to cope with and you don’t need to do it alone. When you are having these intense feelings, try to stop your thinking and repeat: “I am only human. I am doing the best I can.”
Be kind and gentle with yourself; show yourself compassion.
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.
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.
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.
Read about other women's experiences at the “I had an abortion” part of this website. This can be reassuring and make your own feelings more clear. 60Different 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
Study Says Women Feel Great After Having Abortions
You know that weird thing when people fund studies that propagate their interests, then have a big party when the study turns to totally promote their interests? It happens in more industries than it should and more often than it should. While it’s definitely frowned upon, especially in the business or political world, what about when it comes to a cultural issue abortion?
A study just published called “Decision Rightness and Emotional Responses to Abortion in the United States: A Longitudinal Study” set out to find out if women feel happy or sad after an abortion, for up to three years later. It concluded that 99 percent of “[w]omen experienced decreasing emotional intensity over time, and the overwhelming majority of women felt that termination was the right decision for them over three years.”
Groups ThinkProgress are having dance parties. You would too if you sold, say cigarettes, and a study claimed smoking was as healthy as eating blueberries. But they should think twice before busting any moves.
I mean, I’m no PhD, but common sense says if a survey concludes nearly 100 percent for anything or anyone at any time it’s bunk, right? No product, no person, no experience has a 100 percent satisfaction rate—not even sex or looking at cute pictures of baby kittens.
So immediately, to most people with a brain, this study—and those who collected and analyzed the data for the rest of us pedestrians—has lost credibility.
Even your average megalomaniac, banana republic tyrant isn’t so brazen as to say 99 percent of the population supports him.
But in case you’re one of the few who doubts a nearly 100 percent approval rating, here are a few more chinks in the armor.
Study Was Funded by Abortion Advocates
As with Hansel and Gretel, who followed a trail of crumbs to a sweet haven full of deceit and heartache, the study’s money trail leads to a destination that’s just as revealing, manipulative, and deceitful.
To start with, the study was supported by a gift from several organizations, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, both Planned Parenthood donors.
The researchers say they “used data from the Turnaway study,” which was funded by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). One of the researchers is from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health.Guess who that organization donates money to? If you guessed Planned Parenthood, you get a gold star! ANSIRH, for those who are wondering, also produces an “Early Abortion Training Workbook” which includes a picture on their website of a woman practicing an abortion by stabbing a papaya.
.@JuddLegum The Bixby Center, which houses ANSIRH, doesn’t get *any* support or funding from Planned Parenthood? Bless your heart.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) July 13, 2015
Supporters of the study, on , would have you believe the researchers are merely academics and the organization is merely a think tank. Nonsense. Bob Dylan said, everybody’s “gotta serve somebody.” Nearly every single foundation or researcher related to this study has a vested interest in groups that either support or perform abortions. Any other conclusion is simply ignorant.
@seanmdav They are an academic institution working on science
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) July 13, 2015
We Know Many Women Regret Their Abortions
The study’s findings have to be surprising, or at least confusing, even to many abortion advocates who admit many women struggle emotionally following an abortion. In The Atlantic in 2013, Prisca Lecroy wrote how, after choosing to have an abortion, Lecroy’s mother says she experienced “unrelenting tears, guilt, shame, and depression.
” This piece in Slate piggybacked off Lecroy’s experience, claiming it wasn’t representative of how most women feel.
“Some women experience sadness and guilt, but they’re more ly to feel relief and happiness…The emotional fallout from an abortion also needs to be understood in the context of a woman’s range of options when an unwanted pregnancy hits.”
Many abortion advocates admit many women struggle emotionally following an abortion.
User Katebyard writing at Sherights says she regrets her abortion, but is still pro-choice.
She describes the agonizing choice to end her pregnancy, due to pressure from the baby’s father and other chaotic life circumstances at the time, although she believes women should be free to choose abortion.
“The weeks, months, and years after my termination were a downward spiral in terms of my mental health; every period I had and every child I saw was a violent reminder. I ended up attempting suicide and being sectioned.”
Colleen Tronson had multiple abortions before a change of heart propelled her to encourage women to follow a different path. She is now the director of the Minneapolis-based Metro Women’s Center, a place that counsels women considering abortion.
She said it’s normal in any “crisis situation” to feel relief: “Many women do not struggle with the aftermath of an abortion decision until many, many years later.” As a labor companion, she’s seen women who experience abortion flashbacks during labor, complicating the process.
“Feeling emotionally fine is not a good indication of future problems related to the decision,” she says.
Poor Methods and Conflicting Results
The study says “We recruited a cohort of women seeking abortions between 2008-2010.” Say what? You recruited (less than 1,000) women? I’d be curious to know how the “recruitment” process worked.
Were women who expressed negative feelings about their abortions screened out? If you smell sophistry, it’s probably there. It’s when you’re going out: You don’t ask your super-skinny, always-has-it-together friend if you look good.
You ask your boyfriend or husband—who has a vested interest in responding positively—if you look the smokin’ hot babe that you are.
I’d be curious to know how the ‘recruitment’ process worked.Second, the study makes a slight, albeit important distinction between regretting an abortion and feeling negative emotions when thinking of the abortion after the fact.
“Women with more planned pregnancies and who had more difficulty deciding to terminate the pregnancy had lower odds of reporting the abortion was the right decision […] Both negative and positive emotions declined over time.
” But if 95 to 99 percent of women reported no negative feelings of the abortion, how can their nonexistent feelings also decline?
Even the study admits it might be flawed: “Because no formal measures of abortion emotions exist, the scales we used may not have validly captured women’s emotions.
Although the emotions we examined were similar to those assessed in prior studies [6, 7, 12], they were not necessarily the most relevant aspects of the abortion experience […] Asking participants biannually about their emotions and how often they thought about the abortion may have led to higher reported levels of all outcomes than otherwise would have existed” (page 12). They even say “the relatively low participation rate might raise concerns about selection bias.” You can almost hear the researchers sighing, Welp! Too late now, suckas!
Study’s Conclusion and Thus Its Purpose Is Deceptive
The study admits its findings seem unusual. “The typical participant, however, had >99% chance of reporting that the abortion was right for her over three years, and her negative emotions subsided over time.
These findings differ from those of the only other large-scale US prospective study, which found that negative emotions increased, and satisfaction with the abortion decision decreased slightly, over two years” (page 10).
ThinkProgress says this study should “end the debate about whether women should regret having abortions.
” Tronson doesn’t seem surprised how abortion promoters will use these results: “[W]hy would they not want to claim that their services provide only happy customers? It is in their best interest to make the public believe that everyone (99%) leave feeling satisfied. The ‘buyers’ remorse’ of an abortion experience would not be good marketing.”
No doubt the results of this study will be passed around Planned Parenthood offices nationwide, probably on a nifty little postcard, reassuring women that their (recruited) peers didn’t feel bad about abortions, so neither should they.
At best, this study was funded by groups who want to manipulate the national debate and stigma over abortions.
At worst, the obviously skewed results will be propagated to present a misleading, if not entirely false, picture of the aftermath of a choice that actually leaves devastating consequences for women and babies a.
After an abortion
This section contains information and resources aimed at assisting women who may be struggling emotionally after an abortion.
Click here if you're looking for post-operative care instructions.
Who chooses to have an abortion?
In their lifetime, up to one in three Australian women will choose to have an abortion, for many different reasons – women who come from all walks of life.
They are mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, wives, aunties and grandmothers. They are politicians, lawyers, students, teenagers, nurses, police officers, women who 'don't believe in abortion', waitresses, doctors, journalists, and dancers.
They come from many different religious and cultural backgrounds. They can be wealthy, getting by, or struggling financially. They are married, in long term relationships, single, divorced, having casual sex, or victims of sexual assualt.They usually share the belief that while the decision may have been difficult, they made the best choice at the time.
You are not alone in your choice to have an abortion. You were the best person to make the decision that was best for you, at that point in your life. You are the expert in your own life.
How am I feeling?
A woman may feel many different emotions after an abortion.
relief | loss | self-blame | anger | regret | empowerment
It is very common for women to have one or more of these feelings at the same time and for these feelings to change over time. Women may also experience both positive and negative feelings together.
Many women report coping very well after having an abortion. Some women feel they are struggling with their feelings. Other women may have difficulty identifying their emotions.
Often women may describe themselves as feeling confused, without really knowing which feelings are coming together to make them feel this way.
The intensity of these emotions will depend on the individual woman, her beliefs and attitudes, her support systems and the particular circumstances in her own life.
If you are concerned about the way you are feeling, it is important to give yourself time and consider why you might be feeling this way.
This section may help you explore your feelings and enable you to work through your emotions.
“Afterwards I felt so relieved it was over… I felt I could get on with my life… I could focus on looking after my children… I stopped feeling ill and my energy came back very quickly…”
Relief is the most common feeling reported by women after their pregnancy termination. They may be relieved that they were able to make a decision and have an abortion, relieved that they don't have to parent, that they have the space and time to work towards their goals, finish school/university or that they can concentrate on looking after the children already in their care.
It is realistic for a woman to feel relief after working through a difficult time in her life and achieving a resolution. Relief can also be the first step for a woman in gaining a sense of closure about the abortion experience; she can begin to look to the future with optimism and perhaps the desire to make changes in her life.
Relief also may take time to emerge as a woman gradually works through the abortion experience.
A sense of loss
“I really wanted to continue the pregnancy, but I wasn’t financially stable… After the termination I felt empty… I felt lonely because my boyfriend and I broke up…”
For some women a pregnancy termination will mean experiencing feelings of loss. A sense of loss may come from the reasons you decided to terminate the pregnancy or from other things that happened at the same time. For example, a relationship break-up, being isolated from people who can support you, or loss of trust in friends, family and partners.
Experiencing a sense of loss may involve grieving. Grieving is a process that all people need to go through to deal with any kind of loss. Honouring the grieving process allows you to explore meaning in the pregnancy and to incorporate your abortion experience into your life journey.
Your body is also experiencing hormonal changes which may affect your emotional state immediately following the abortion. Remember to give yourself time for your body to adjust.At first you might feel denial: ‘This doesn’t seem real’ or ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ After denial you may feel depression and anger: ‘I feel sad and angry this has happened to me.’ In time, acceptance will come to you.
It is also important not to worry too much if you are feeling sad, but to acknowledge that sadness can be a part of any major life decision. However, if sadness persists for a long period of time and continues to interfere with your daily life, it might be good to seek professional counselling and support.
“I feel selfish…I feel stupid for getting pregnant in the first place…Before this I never believed in abortion… I have let myself and my family down…”
You have no reason to feel guilty or ashamed for having an abortion and you should not feel you have done anything wrong. You are the expert in your own life, and you tried to make the best possible decision at the time.
If you are feeling guilty, it might be helpful to look back at your reasons for choosing to terminate the pregnancy and the circumstances at the time. These reasons can tell you a lot about what you really valued at the time of your decision.
Ask yourself if those reasons still hold true for you. If they do, then you may need to explore further what feels unresolved for you.
In other words, what is left over from your experience that you haven’t sorted out in your mind? Ask yourself what action you would need to take to resolve this and how you can learn from this experience.
Ask yourself whose beliefs or values or standards you are judging yourself by. Are these things you stand for, or do you stand for something different?
The last step to coping successfully with guilt is to learn to forgive yourself. This can be difficult for some people and it will depend on what you say to yourself and do for yourself.Some support agencies and people that you talk to may tell you that having an abortion makes all women feel extremely guilty afterwards. This is not true. Ongoing major emotional distress after an abortion is rare.
It is important not to punish yourself. If you continue to feel guilty or bad about yourself because of your decision to have an abortion, it may be helpful for you to consider seeking professional counselling and support.
“I feel angry with myself for not using contraception…I feel angry with my partner because he pushed me to have an abortion…I am angry with my parents for not supporting me…I feel angry with myself for allowing others to make me feel I had no choice…”
Some women may feel angry about aspects of the complex situation surrounding their unplanned pregnancy. It can be useful to recognise your anger and to explore the underlying issues.
Identifying where the anger is coming from may help you know how to express your feelings and how you can then move on from the experience. A good place to start might be to consider who you are angry with, what they did that led you to feel angry, how you responded to them at the time and how things are between you now.
If you are angry at someone else, try to think of constructive ways to communicate your anger to that person, so that it is heard and understood. Being aware of your anger, and expressing it and communicating it respectfully, may ease the intensity of your feelings.
Anger can be transformed into positive, constructive emotion, or it can be held on to and continue to cause you and other people pain. Explore some ways of expressing your anger safely that ensure no one gets hurt, including you. Some women find it helpful to scream in a place where no one can hear them, to punch a pillow or to exercise vigorously. Only you will know what works for you.
If you are angry at yourself, consider what you might want to do differently if you face the same problem again. Identify the steps you can take now to be able to act differently in future.
Empowered to make my own decisions
The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be complex and may be influenced by many factors, including a woman’s values, beliefs, relationships, work and study goals, financial stability, age, existing family size and cultural background.
This decision may also be the first major decision that a woman has to make in her life, and can mean making some other major decisions about what she wants for her future and how she feels about her life so far.
Such a decision can seem overwhelming and many women comment that they wish the decision wasn’t in their hands.However, you can choose how to view the decision and its impact on your life. Rather than being overwhelming, the decision to end a pregnancy can also be experienced as empowering.
You can choose to see that this decision is yours alone.
Instead of this being an isolating experience, you can choose to see that it allows you a level of control over your life and your body that may not have previously existed for you.
The process of making a decision on an unplanned pregnancy offers a woman the opportunity to reflect on if she’s content with her relationships and the support that she has been given, if she’s satisfied with her work or study and how much these things mean to her, if she’s happy with the way her friends and family have treated her in the past and have supported her with her decision and if her values and beliefs hold true for her and give meaning to her life.
This process of evaluation, while stressful, can help you to make changes that can improve your quality of life. It is important to also remember that any decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy, not only a decision to have an abortion, can be empowering if the decision is yours.
The most important thing to remember is that you may experience a range of emotions after the abortion, but that does not necessarily indicate that you made the wrong decision.
Be mindful of the hormonal changes that your body is going through and how these experiences can unsettle you and make you tearful for a few days. If you are finding yourself struggling with your emotions after your abortion, here are a few tips that might help you feel better.
Telling someone you trust
Because of the societal stigma that is placed on abortion, some women choose to keep their abortion a secret. They fear judgement or believe that it is ‘only’ a personal experience. It is your choice who you want to tell and when the right time is for you to do so.
The potential benefits of talking about your experience are feeling heard and validated; receiving support in coping; finding meaning in your experience; being able to process the experience so you can move on.
Not talking about your abortion might mean that you bottle your feelings up instead of working through them.
If you are not sure whether someone is going to be supportive of you, try asking them generally about abortion or maybe mention a news article you saw to sound them out beforehand.
Alternatively, if you really want to keep it a secret from those closest to you an option available is to call Children by Choice or another all-options counselling service and talk in confidence with one of our counsellors. You don't even have to give your name.
Talking to a complete stranger about how you are feeling may help you release emotions or thoughts that need to be expressed and that will help you adjust and move on.
If you're in Queensland, you can call Children by Choice on 07 3357 5377 or toll-free on 1800 177 725.
Identifying your strengths
Negative feelings about an event or issue can sometimes obscure our strengths and blind us to our learnings. Try focusing on your strengths and your personal resources.
Think about the ways you have used them to work through difficult life challenges in the past. See how you can apply those same strengths to your current circumstances to help you cope with your negative feelings.
Ask yourself what you have learnt about yourself and realised about your hopes for the future that you did not know so clearly before.
Doing things that make you feel good
Ask yourself what is happening when you feel good. Are you alone or with people? Who are you with and what are they doing or saying? What are you doing or saying? How is this different to when you are feeling sad, guilty or angry? Are you alone or with other people? What are they doing or saying? What are you doing or saying?
By comparing your feelings in these different situations you can challenge yourself to do things that make you feel good more often. It is also okay for you to accept that sometimes you will feel down, but by choosing to take care of yourself and do things you enjoy, you will feel more positive and capable of dealing with your emotions when they arise.
Contact us if you would to talk about anything relating to a past abortion.
Abortion risks: Post-Abortion Syndrome
We have a saying in the world of therapy. “Secrets kill.” Thus is the path of many women after abortion. Don't talk. Don't feel. Keep the secret. – Trudy M. Johnson, M.A., LMFT
What can a woman feel after abortion?
Many women say that no one told them what to expect emotionally.
In fact, a woman who has just had an abortion is often under enormous pressure – whether from her partner, her family and friends, or the abortion provider – to act as if nothing has happened, or even to express relief or happiness. In some cases, the woman may be trying to keep the abortion a secret, in which case the pressure can become extreme.
In reality, such pressure is unfair to post-abortive women, who have just undergone a significant and sometimes traumatic surgical procedure, often at a time of great upheaval in their lives.
While some women do indeed experience relief after an abortion, others find that they were not prepared emotionally to deal with the aftermath.
Some women may find themselves experiencing unexpected grief or depression, with little understanding or support from their partner or loved ones.
In those cases where the woman is keeping the abortion a secret, she must deal with these negative emotions completely alone.Some may even bury the associated negative emotions just in order to carry on with life, only to find that years – sometimes even decades – later, the unresolved negative emotions suddenly re-emerge, requiring healing.
In fact, some psychologists have coined a term to describe common symptoms that they have found in many post-abortive women who have come to them for help. They call it Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS).
Common symptoms of PAS include guilt, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, a desire to avoid children or pregnant women, and flashbacks to the abortion itself.
Women considering abortion have a right to know about the possible emotional risks of their choice. On the other hand, women who have already had an abortion have the right to know that non-judgmental support and healing are available.
Some real-life stories
Relief, sadness, or anger can be felt after abortion. Since each experience is unique, so too is the mix of emotions. Sometimes one feeling will dominate, or more than one could be strong.
Following are some real testimonies available online that help show how women can feel after abortion.
– “Pregnancy, babies, doctors, being a mother, vacuum cleaners and dentist drills became abortion connectors and sent me into emotional anguish.”
– “My abortion is associated with so many emotions. They come at unexpected times, but they always go quickly.”
– “I was sitting quietly in my bedroom and, suddenly, my entire world went black. It was as if in the space between breaths, my entire existence lost all meaning. … I began having severe anxiety attacks … I had no idea at the time that this was due to the rapid drop in hormones experienced as a result of the abortion. No one had told me this could happen.”
– “When asked by the hospital psychiatrist why I wanted to die I told him I was already dead inside and just wanted to finish the job.”
– “All I felt was a huge relief …. Of course sometimes I wonder if it had been a boy or a girl …. But I have always been at peace with the decision.”
– “Initially I guess I was just numb. … I felt dirty and worthless …. It may be difficult to understand but the violence of the rape made much less of an impact on me than the abortion.”
– …out came some fluid then the sac split open, there was my baby! its tiny little head and body, i broke down started shouting at myself and saying sorry to my baby … I did it for other people not myself and now im the one who has to live with this regret and hatred towards myself. – abortion pill patient
– “I have no regrets. Zero. The whole situation still hurts sometimes.”
– “To have a baby after an abortion is not so easy. The feelings that are in your mind and heart about your abortion are somehow mirrored in the new baby. I think it would be easier if all these issues were spoken of openly.”
– “I look back at each of these abortions, and my heart is sad. I loved them and wanted to meet them, but I was too weak. … I cry, I hurt.” -hyperemesis gravidarum sufferer (1)
Testimonies show that after an abortion a woman can feel simple relief, overwhelming loss, anger, or numbness. Pain may be short-lived or decades long, or surface after years of avoidance.
What can make abortion traumatic?
Abortion doctors have found several known risk factors for serious emotional pain, or trauma, from abortion.(2) Less proven but possible risk factors have also been found by experienced therapists:
– The abortion is forced, or chosen under pressure. Research suggests women commonly feel pressured into abortion, either by other people or by circumstances.(3) This is a known risk for later emotional trauma.
“At times women may feel compelled not to follow through with a pregnancy under pressure from a husband, boyfriend, or family member,” writes San Francisco trauma therapist Susanne Babbel.
“In any case, it is usually thought of as a solution to stressful circumstances.”
It sometimes happens that an abortion is genuinely forced. It could be forced by a patient’s parent, her partner, or a doctor who ignores her request to stop the abortion. (4) This is always a crime. A woman or girl has a right to refuse an abortion no matter her age or any other circumstance.
In less serious cases, therapists say women simply felt “no choice” but to abort a pregnancy they might have kept in better times. This can also be a red flag for problems later on.(5)
– The abortion is a medical abortion (RU-486). – Another risk factor may be choosing a medical, or chemical, abortion (RU-486 drug).This is because the abortion pill completes the process in a private setting. At home, a woman may actually see the remains of her baby, sometimes while alone and in great physical pain.
“Those who do see more [by using the abortion pill] have more nightmares, more trauma symptoms,” says psychiatrist Dr. Martha Shuping, author of The Four Steps to Healing.
– A history of depression, abuse or other mental health problems. – One of the clearest risks for abortion-related stress is a history of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. (5)
A victim of sexual abuse has a higher lihood of struggling to cope with abortion. (5b) In other contexts, family wounds such as an absent father figure have also been linked to emotional stress problems. (6)
– There is little or no support system. – A woman may avoid talking about her experience if she feels there’s no one to turn to, or if she’s already suffered judgment.
Even if support is available, it can't benefit a woman if she opts to handle things alone. Therapists say many women choose this path after abortion.
“I believe most women, myself included, are forced to go into a period of stuffing down the sadness and getting on with life,” says therapist Dr. Trudy Johnson, author of C.P.R.: Choice Processing and Resolution. (7) But this choice, she says, can lead to serious complications.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome
Not all women experience emotional problems after abortion. But for many, grief after abortion can become a real emotional wound. This is sometimes called Post Abortion Syndrome or Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS), which informally refers to a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Such a wound can affect someone in different ways: the painful event may come to mind again and again, or it may sink far mind, dulling the pain.
In the first case, a woman may suffer from “triggers” (sights or sounds that remind her of the abortion) or abortion-themed nightmares that arouse her grief. (7a) But in the second case, suppressed grief can secretly damage daily life through depression, anger, or broken relationships. This is sometimes called “emotional toxicity.” (8)
Therapists say patients often aren’t even aware when their depression stems from an abortion wound, which can take 15 years or more to surface fully. (9)
Yes, healing is possible
An abortion wound can heal. The first step is to seek that healing.
However, experts emphasize that women can’t be left to walk this path of healing alone: they must be granted a judgment-free zone where they can have a chance to work through their feelings.
“There is little social support for women who find abortion a stressful experience,“ says Dr. Theresa Karminski Burke, founder of Rachel’s Vineyard. “There is no validation for her grief and anger.
“Women need a safe place to grieve an abortion loss separate from a political or religious discussion.”
Dr. Johnson, who is post-abortive, said her experience proved finding such a place can be very difficult.
“I went to three professionals who did not understand my situation. Two validated my choice but not my grief. One condemned my choice and completely invalidated my grief,” she said. “So make sure you move toward safety and caring and compassionate people who understand abortion grief.”Today, there are more places to find help healing from abortion, some of which are listed at the bottom of this article.
Many women also experience a further need: spiritual healing. This too is a real need that women have a right to recuperate. (See abortion and spirituality page here.)
Helping women heal
The turning point for many women who are suffering Post-Abortion Syndrome comes when a woman’s story is understood, and this starts with those closest to her. Loved ones must have the courage to be silent, to listen, to support, and to hope.
The following are some pointers offered by post-abortive women on what loved ones can do for them: (10)
Be with her.
– Be the space where she can breathe. Respect her privacy: reveal the abortion to others only if she says it's OK.
– Be physically present – especially partners.
– Let your real concern and compassion show without words. Simple physical touch may be the best communication.
– Strive to accept her feelings no matter how strongly you feel yourself. Let her speak about what she wants to, with the terms she chooses.
– Avoid judgments such as why the abortion was good or bad, a personal stance on abortion or motherhood, or how she ought to feel.
– Send the message that she doesn't have to be 'in control' for you to be there.
– Keep in touch.
– Encourage her to care for herself with food and rest.
– Make yourself available to run errands.
– Invite her to events, including children’s birthdays or baby showers. Let her accept or decline, and invite her to later ones unless she's said not to.
– If she asks, help her commemorate the lost child.
– Research depression and trauma to learn about what she's going through.
– Get help if she speaks of suicide or shows other signs of worsening mental health.
For more post-abortion help:
Abortion Recovery International (ARIN)
The Four Steps to Healing
C.P.R.: Choice Processing and Resolution
For unplanned pregnancy help:
Pregnancy Choices Directory (U.K. and Canada)
(1) Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a medical condition in which a woman experiences unrelenting, severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, sometimes for the entire time she is pregnant. HG sufferers often lack desperately needed help because the condition is erroneously seen as psychological. For more information on HG, visit www.helpher.org
(2) see Maureen Paul MD MPH, E. Steven Lichtenberg MD MPH, et al. “A Clinician's Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortion.” Churchill Livingstone, 1999.
(3) Priscilla Coleman, Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009 (2011) http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/3/180
(4) The reality of forced abortions received public attention recently in the criminal case of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. A former patient said Gosnell removed all her clothing and forcibly aborted her when she, at 15 years old, was brought to the clinic by her grandmother in 1998. (ABC News)
(5) Maureen Paul, “A Clinician’s Guide.”
(6) Josh Clark “How Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Works” (2013) http://science.howstuffworks.com/ptsd.htm, quoting National Center for PTSD www.ptsd.va.gov
(7) Trudy Johnson, MA, LMFT “Understanding Abortion Grief and the Recovery Process” PsychCentral http://psychcentral.com/lib/understanding-abortion-grief-and-the-recovery-process/?all=1
(7a) Maureen Paul; Trudy Johnson; Martha Shuping https://www..com/watch?v=z1V1bfmmyEU (Dec. 4 2012 Justice Foundation briefing, D.C.)
(8) Further signs that a trauma has become “toxic” include an inability to feel joy or emotional numbness; lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable; feelings of despair; impaired memory, concentration, or sleep; and difficulty maintaining close relationships. Increased aggressiveness or outbursts, excessive fear, and self-destructive behavior are also possible signs. (Mayo Clinic, “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: symptoms”)
(9) Trudy Johnson; Theresa Karminski Burke, Ph.D. “Abortion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Evidence Keeps Piling Up.” (1994) http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/PDF/Articles/Abortion%20and%20Post%20Traumatic%20Stress%20Disorder%20-%20Theresa%20.pdf
(10) Adapted from testimonies available at www.afterabortion.com.