As someone who chose abortion in my teen years, I understand the various emotions that many post-abortive people endure afterwards. Today, tomorrow or years from now. I am not a physician or professional counselor. The points below are based on my personal experience and through assisting thousands of post-abortive individuals. I hope this will help you understand what you might be feeling at a physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual level.
Understand that your hormones are in the process of shifting back to a non-pregnant state. Having unbalanced hormones leads many to experience emotional ups and downs. When you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself that your body is changing and be patient with yourself for at least six weeks.
Be sure to schedule a follow-up exam by a physician that does not perform or refer for abortion procedures. Very few states have adopted health-code regulations for abortion clinics. Often nail salons, veterinary offices and restaurants are required to have a higher level of state-monitored cleanliness standards than abortion clinics. It makes good sense to have a physician uninvolved in the abortion industry ensure that your healthcare in this procedure was appropriate and safe.
Understand that it is normal to be angry after an abortion experience. Anger is the typical emotion endured immediately after this procedure. Particularly if you were not confidant about this choice and/or were pressured into it by others. Typically anger is directed at those who did not support continuing the pregnancy. The hormonal imbalances can impact all emotional reactions, particular related to anger.
Feeling “relieved” is a common emotion after abortion. Your crisis is over and the situation has been resolved. Perhaps the people that were pressuring you to make this decision have backed down and are no longer worried. Things seemed to have smoothed out in your life. Many times, however, this relief is temporary. Other emotions can find their way into your heart as the days, months and years pass. If feelings of relief are replaced with other emotions, understand many other post-abortive women endured this same situation. Abortion can be a hard decision to live with at any stage of life. Help is available should you struggle, either now or in the future.
Give yourself permission to grieve this pregnancy loss. The post-abortive many times, use anger to keep grief from our hearts and tears from our eyes. You may feel if you start crying, you may never stop. Or that your tears could lead you to consider suicide. You have experienced a pregnancy loss, regardless of the fact that it was your choice. Society, particularly those who encourage abortion decisions, rarely provide post-abortive people the permission to grieve this pregnancy loss. For those involved in the decision, tears may produce guilt in their hearts for not being supportive of the pregnancy. These related individuals can respond in anger to silence their own emotions over their involvement with your current pain. After all these years since my abortion experience, I still mourn the loss of my child. That is my right and it brings me peace. If necessary, find a private place to express this grief. You deserve that opportunity.
Some post-abortive women feel an urgency to quickly become pregnant again. This desire can be referred to as desiring an “atonement” baby. Some simply seek to “replace” the lost child with another baby. Seldom does the next baby fill that void due to the many psychological issues that can appear after abortion. On another extreme, many who successfully get pregnant again can find themselves facing the same pressure and lack of support from those around them. They can very easily abort again and again. A second or third abortion can be more difficult emotionally than the initial one, particularly if the person wanted to be pregnant. Additional abortions can trigger specific memories of earlier procedures and enhance any related emotional agony.
You may experience anxiety concerning being able to get pregnant in the future. Abortion can certainly impact women physically for various reasons. This is why it is essential to have a complete check-up with a physician that is uninvolved in the abortion industry. Personally, I not only struggled with this anxiety but endured two years of infertility when I eventually married. My doctor believed my abortion had been “incomplete” and my fallopian tubes were blocked. Through a simple test he was able to clear my tubes which allowed me to get pregnant. Had I visited a physician immediately after my abortion, it is possible he would have noticed this situation and resolved it then. Waiting seven years to finally get a check-up did not help my fertility situation. So be sure to schedule that appointment soon.
When you hear the word “abortion” in conversations or media coverage, it can trigger emotional pain. In the days following my abortion, it was easy to avoid the term. When time I heard it, I had immediate anxiety and would either throw the newspaper away or shut off the television. I was very careful to avoid anything related to “pro-life” or “pro-choice” politics as well. Today this topic is simply unavoidable at any level. Realize this word can be a “trigger” of memories that you want to forget. Understand that if anxiety or pain comes over you at the discussion of this term, you may need some help in addressing this past choice.
Realize that there is help if you are overwhelmed with these emotions. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of the largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, states that at current rates, 33% of all American women will experience abortion at least once (agi-usa.com). If abortion is such a good experience, why is it that you rarely hear anyone talk about their past choice? This is primarily due to the fear of judgment by a society that holds various opinions on this choice. Regardless, I’m happy to report that there are thousands of abortion recovery programs, staffed by caring individuals, ready to help you find peace.
If you are experiencing any of the emotions or issues I have outlined above, please read the following outline of “Common Issues People Experience After Abortion.” When I read this listing eleven years after my abortion, I could see myself in many of the symptoms. It was a relief to know that my emotions were typical and that I was not the only person struggling after abortion. In connecting my pain to my abortion experience, I soon I found a wonderfully compassionate abortion recovery program offered through a pregnancy center. Ramah International exists to help you find these programs and begin your healing process.
Common Issues Post-Abortive People Experience
Choosing abortion can be a traumatic experience for everyone involved. This trauma has many “faces” depending on the variables surrounding the abortion situation. Below is a list of typical reactions some may experience in the months or years following an abortion. Rarely does the post-abortive person suffer everything and other symptoms may not even be included in the list below. If someone has endured three or more of these situations/emotions, it could mean that their pain is centered on an abortion experience. If that is the case, abortion recovery classes can bring peace.
Guilt – A mother’s heart is genetically designed to “protect their child at all costs.” Abortion short-circuits that basic human instinct. That can lead to feelings of guilt. A common guilty reaction after abortion could be that the individuals believes future bad events happen because they “deserve it” for making this choice.
Anxiety (i.e., anxiety attacks). Many individuals state that after their abortion they started feeling tense and could not relax. Some outline physical reactions like dizziness, pounding heart, upset stomach, headaches. They may worry about the future, struggle to concentrate and not be able to sleep. It is often difficult to understand the source of anxiety.
Avoiding Children or Pregnant Women – It is common for post-abortive people to avoid children, especially pregnant women or children that would have been around the age of their aborted child. This avoidance can include: skipping baby showers, avoiding the baby aisle at the grocery store, walking around the block to avoid a playground, or making excuses to escape events that include children or pregnant women.
Feeling “Numb” – To avoid painful thoughts after abortion, many post-abortive people work to shut off their emotions. That could mean abandoning friendships and family, particularly if they remind them of the abortion experience. When someone shuts down emotionally, they don’t feel sorrow or joy. Many turn to drugs or alcohol to assist in numbing these memories that result in guilt or anxiety.
Depression. Everyone is sad once in a while. After abortion, gloomy feelings can make the person feel hopeless and unlovable. They may cry uncontrollably for no reason and/or feel like they are going crazy. Perhaps they can’t eat or sleep. Others eat too much and sleep all day. The things they used to enjoy are avoided.
Thoughts of suicide – Some post-abortive people get so sad that they think it would be easier to die than continue living. Others miss their lost child so much that they want to join them to hold them at last.
Anniversary Reminders – This “anniversary” can be the aborted child’s due date, or the date of the abortion. On these dates, the post-abortive can feel horrible for no apparent reason. It can take years to realize these dates are related to their abortion experience.
Experiencing the Abortion Again – A post-abortive person can be suddenly transported back to the abortion clinic and remember everything in their minds. Memories can be triggered by simple sounds heard during the abortion procedure – like a vacuum cleaner or a dentist drill. For those who endured medical abortions, it can be the sound of a toilet flushing. Yearly pap tests can also resurrect these memories. Others experience ongoing nightmares involving children, perhaps in pain. They can even have the same nightmare over and over again.
Wanting to get pregnant again – It is normal to want to get pregnant again as soon as possible after any pregnancy loss. Most do so out of a desire to make sure they can still have a baby. Others hope to “replace” the life that was lost during the abortion.
Fear of Infertility – A common reaction of the post-abortive is to worry about being able to get pregnant again. Many fear they have aborted the only child they will ever have. Others suspect the abortion could have mutilated their body in some way.
Unable to Bond with Present or Future Children – If the post-abortive person has children before or after the abortion, these family members can be a constant reminder of the person they aborted. This pain can result in the person distancing themselves at an emotional level or even abandoning the children, believing they are disqualified to be a parent.
Fear that Future Children Will Die – Some post-abortive people live in fear that children they had before or after the abortion could easily die. This fright can lead these parents to overprotect their children at an unhealthy level.
Eating disorders. Episodes of anorexia or bulimia is common for post-abortive people. Some get fat or thin to avoid anyone wanting them at a sexual level as that could lead to another pregnancy decision. Eating is also something an individual can personally regulate when their life feels beyond their control.
Alcohol and Drug Use – Drugs and alcohol often serves as a tranquilizer that helps the post-abortive keep the memories of an abortion at a distance. They can help calm anxiety and promote sleep. Sadly, the overuse of these elements can lead to other problems at a mental and physical level.
If you are post-abortive and are experiencing three or more of these symptoms, Ramah exists to help you! Visit our website at herchoicetoheal.com or write to me directly at [email protected] for an abortion recovery class referral. If direct contact is too painful, buy my book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion. Help is available for the post-abortive!
Sydna A. Masse, President & Founder, Ramah International