It is common for women to experience a range of emotions after an abortion. Usually, psychological and emotional wellbeing improves after an abortion – and it’s rare to experience long-term negative consequences.1
|But there are always exceptions to this rule. For some women, abortion may not be so straightforward and they may have difficulty coping with their decision.|
Women have many different and mixed reactions to an abortion. Common reactions include: relief or rejuvenation, a feeling that things are getting ‘back to normal’, a sense of control over life, clarity, feeling more capable about decision-making and being more knowledgeable about fertility and contraception. Some women find their relationship is strengthened, some women have ‘no regrets at all’.
If the decision has been difficult, women might also feel: sadness, anger, disappointment, shame or guilt, regret and loss or grief.
See Stories from women for examples women have given of their experiences of an unplanned pregnancy.
It is important that women examine their own circumstances and beliefs before choosing an abortion.
What helps women cope?
- Feeling positive and ‘in control’ of their situation and their decision
- Feeling they are making a decision consistent with their goals, values and beliefs
- Receiving positive, unbiased support from significant people around them – family, friends, partner, community
- Being in a safe, trusting relationship
- Experiencing support for their decision within their relationships
- Holding values and beliefs which accept abortion as a reasonable and valid choice
- Experiencing unbiased, non-judgemental and respectful support, information and advocacy from the health professionals caring for them.
Factors which may lead to negative experiences of abortion
- Subtle or blatant coercion (pressure or force) to continue or terminate a past or current pregnancy
- Lack of support from or conflict with family, friends, partner or community about the decision
- Strong, lasting feelings of going against your own goals, values or beliefs (for example: having an abortion while believing abortion is wrong)
- Feeling the subject of gossip, blame and criticism
- Feeling deeply ambivalent about the decision
- Significant emotional or mental-health issues
- Having deep feelings of sadness and loss about the pregnancy or previous pregnancies
|Each woman will be the best judge of how she will cope and what she needs to assist her. If you are experiencing any of the above, it’s important to discuss your feelings with trusted friends or family or with a counsellor.|
Questions to think about
- Is anybody pressuring me to make a decision (abortion, continuing pregnancy, adoption)? Pressure can be subtle or dramatic. Do I feel like I am making this decision because of someone else’s wants or needs?
- Do I feel like I am going strongly against any of my values or belief systems (ethical, religious, spiritual)? Can I accept this change to my belief systems?
- Can I talk it through with someone neutral and non-judgemental?
- Do I picture myself regretting my decision after the abortion? Would I regret making the decision for the other options? More or less than a decision to end the pregnancy?
- Have I had any significant emotional or mental health issues that might be affecting me now?
- Am I feeling very ambivalent about this decision? Is it taking a long time to make a decision?
- Is my current relationship or family situation abusive, controlling, violent or rejecting?
- Have I had any difficult pregnancy experiences (a difficult abortion, a loss of a pregnancy or child) that could be affecting me now?
|You can discuss any of these issues and feelings with the Pregnancy Advisory Service on 03 8345 3063 and/or with your own health-professional.|
|Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), ‘Termination of pregnancy: a resource for health professionals’, November 2005, Victoria, p.4; & various|
other references including World Health Organization, American Psychological Association & The Guttmacher Institute – see bibliography section for full bibliographic details.