Are there emotional aspects to abortion?

The decision to end a pregnancy is rarely an easy one to make. While some women initially report feeling relieved after abortion, other women report negative emotions following their abortion experience.

Are there emotional aspects to abortion?

The decision to end a pregnancy is rarely an easy one to make. While some women initially report feeling relieved after abortion, other women report negative emotions following their abortion experience. The research on the long-term effects of abortion is incomplete, due to factors like scientific bias or the failure to connect the negative outcomes with abortion1. However, there is evidence that women experience the following negative effects of abortion:

  • Clinical depression and anxiety2
  • Drug and alcohol abuse3
  • Symptoms consistent with PTSD4
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior5
  • Relationship problems6
  • Short- or Long- term lack of interest, discomfort, or decreased satisfaction with sex7

Not all women will experience negative effects of abortion, and most women who experience negative effects will not experience everything listed above. However, women are at a higher risk of experiencing emotional or psychological problems after abortion if8,9:

  • They are being pressured or coerced to abort
  • They had mental health problems before the abortion
  • They feel uncertain or are having difficulty making the decision
  • They had past childhood sexual abuse or unresolved traumatic experiences
  • They lack emotional or social support systems
  • They wanted the pregnancy
  • They believe abortion is against their values
  • They have strong religious beliefs against abortion
  • They felt they have to keep the abortion secret
  • They felt attached to the pregnancy

Again, just because you have a risk factor doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to experience negative effects, it just means you may be at an increased risk compared to someone without that risk factor.

If you have experienced one or more of these negative effects after your abortion experience, Skylark is here to support you. Skylark offers post-abortion support groups as well as one-on-one peer counseling. Give us a call today to set up an appointment.

1. Guttmacher Institute. (2016, March). State policies in brief: Abortion reporting requirements. Retrieved from www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_ARR.pdf

2. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Boden, J. M. (2008). Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study. British Journal of Psychiatry,193, 444–51. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.056499. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/193/6/444.full

3. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, J., Ridder, E. M. (2006). Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 16–24.

4. Pedersen, W. (2007). Childbirth, abortion and subsequent substance use in young women: a population-based longitudinal study. Addiction, 102 (12), 1971–78.

Coleman, P.K. (2005) Induced abortion and increased risk of substance abuse: a review of the evidence. Current Women’s Health Reviews, 1(21), 21–34.

5. Curley, M., Johnston, C. (2013). The characteristics and severity of psychological distress after abortion among university students. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, doi: 10.1007/s11414-013-9328-0.

Coleman, P.K., Coyle, C., Rue, V. (2010). Late-term elective abortion and susceptibility to posttraumatic stress symptoms. Journal of Pregnancy, Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/130519

Suliman S, Ericksen T, Labuschgne T, de Wit R, Stein D, Seedat S. (2007). Comparison of pain, cortisol levels, and psychological distress in women undergoing surgical termination of pregnancy under local anaesthesia versus intravenous sedation. BMC Psychiatry, 7:24doi:10.1186/1471-244X-7-24.

6. Fok WY, Siu SSN, Lau TK. (2006).Sexual dysfunction after a first trimester induced abortion in a Chinese population. Eur J Obstet Gynecol,126:255–258.

7. Baker, A., & Beresford, T. (2009). Informed consent, patient education and counseling. In Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancies (p. 56-57). West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Baker, A., & Beresford, T. (2009). Informed consent, patient education and counseling. In M. Paul, E. S. Lichtenberg, L. Borgatta, D. A. Grimes, P. G. Stubblefield, & M. D. Creinin (Eds.), Management of unintended and abnormal pregnancy: Comprehensive abortion care (p. 51). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Perrucci, A. C. (2012). Decision Counseling for Emotional Conflict. In Decision assessment and counseling in abortion care: Philosophy and practice (p. 27). Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

American Psychological Association, Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. (2008). Report of the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/mental-health-abortion-report.pdf

Baker, A., Beresford, T. S., Halverson-Boyd, G., & Garrity, J. M. (1999). Informed consent, counseling, and patient preparation. In M. Paul, E. S. Lichtenberg, D. A. Grimes, & P. G. Stubblefield (Eds.), A clinician’s guide to medical and surgical abortion (pp. 28-29). New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone

8. Baker, A., & Beresford, T. (2009). Informed consent, patient education and counseling. In Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancies (p. 56–57). West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.

9. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Boden, J. M. (2013). Does abortion reduce the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy? A re-appraisal of the evidence. Australia & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(9), 819–27. Retrieved on July 21, 2014 from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23553240

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