Despite the lack of current studies, past studies reveal there are numerous post abortion emotional concerns that need to be considered when contemplating an abortion. Statistically 1 out of every 3 women in the United States will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. Approximately 45% of all abortions are now repeat abortions. While individuals will cope with the procedure in different ways, common sense says that there are numerous external factors that will aid or hamper an individual’s emotional state.
Furthermore, a predisposition to mental disorders is a factor in the ability to cope with the myriad of emotions that may crop up before, during and after the abortion procedure. Statistics show that the younger the woman, the more likely she will have delayed reactions to such a procedure.
Emotions lie along a Continuum from Mild to Severe
There are more than 375 studies that show at least a minority of women, typically between 10 and 20 percent, have one or more negative reactions shortly after an abortion. Initially many report feelings of relief; however, after longer periods of time since the procedure, more negative reactions are reported. There is often a five to ten year period of denial during which the women will have repressed feelings.
Women reported sleep disorders such as nightmares or insomnia and memory loss. Even though these may seem to be on the milder end of possible emotional effects of an abortion, none the less, they can become quite severe. Other reported after effects include significant personality changes where the women experience a loss of self-esteem, resentment or bitterness, or guilt and remorse. There may be periods of chronic crying and women may have difficulty grieving in general.
Many women report that their relationships suffer significantly after an abortion. They find it difficult to maintain positive, healthy relationships and may develop bonding issues with children; whether their own or children in general. Some women avoid children while others seem to become enmeshed with them.
Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders can Develop
Cigarettes and alcohol usage appear to increase in some women after an abortion. There are studies that also find a correlation between abortions and bulimia, binge eating or anorexia. However, there are also studies to refute these claims. It is important to remember that any major stressor can cause the development of substance abuse or an eating disorder. Given that these disorders mask other issues; it is likely that a woman could in fact develop one of these after going through the abortion procedure.
Professionally Diagnosed Mental Disorders
Mental Health Professionals have reported that female patients who have undergone an abortion procedure usually come into the clinic for reasons other than the abortion. It is only within the subsequent treatment the abortion is revealed. The women were most likely to be diagnosed with one of the follow:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Sexual Dysfunction
These women exhibited a lack of interest in activities, problems sleeping (either lack of or sleeping too much), and problems with appetites. The more seriously depressed women expressed suicidal ideation or even suicidal attempts. The women reported nervousness, panic attacks, flashbacks and relationship conflicts. Some women reported having difficulty with intercourse; either having no interest or becoming more sexually promiscuous.
Strong Support Network Seems to be a Key
Even when a woman experiences relief following an abortion, delayed reactions can be triggered by subsequent life events such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a religious conversion, or even physical changes like menopause. The anniversary date of the procedure or the due date of the aborted child could also trigger a delayed reaction.
The decision to have an abortion is not an easy one to make. A strong support network seems to ease the emotional turmoil that is bound to come up for most women. Most studies show that a woman surrounded by family and friends who she can turn to for advice and comfort has a much higher chance of having milder symptoms of post abortion emotions.
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Shuping, Martha, M.D. "Clearing the Air About the Psychological Effects of Abortion." Elliot Institute. www.afterabortion.org.
Reardon, David C. "The After Effects of Abortion." Elliot Institute. www.epigee.org/pregnancy/psycholoigical. 1990.
Lawlor, Jessica. "Long Term Physiological and Psychological Effects on Women." www.cirtl.org/syndrome.
Cohen, Susan A. "Abortion and Mental Health: Myths and Realities." Guttmacher Policy Review. Summer 2006, Volume 9, Number 3.
The copyright of the article “Emotional After Effects of Having an Abortion” is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.