Postpartum Depression After Abortion
“My abortion was a few days ago. I can’t move or talk to anyone, including my husband. I have so much regret I’m usually asleep by now and I can’t keep my eyes shut. Please tell me what I can do. I can tell this is going to get worse for me,” the post-abortive woman wrote after finding Ramah International’s post abortion healing site.
Abortion clearly involves giving birth. It obviously involves the loss of a child. However you view the abortion issue, there is no denying that this form of voluntary child loss has a physical impact on the women that choose it.
The hormones a mother’s body produces to ensure the pregnancy is maintained are abruptly halted and thrown into disarray by abortion. It is biologically clear that post-abortive women endure the fallout of this hormonal shift immediately after their abortion because the pregnancy is lost.
Many post-abortive women experience “postpartum baby blues” after their abortions. Others encounter a deeper level of angst which is called postpartum depression. This impact often includes mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.[i]
Because of this hormonal shift, postpartum depression often results and a deep despair can settle over a woman’s heart without any understanding as to its source. If abortion is safe and legal, most of us believed it must have been well researched. I never knew that making this voluntary choice to end my child’s life could impact me at a postpartum level.
Sadly, little or no statistically significant research has ever been pursued on how abortion impacts postpartum depression. Weighty research, however, on the biological impact of pregnancies lost through miscarriage – medically referred to as “spontaneous abortions” – can be compared and conclusions drawn.
After any form of pregnancy loss, the woman’s body experiences an abrupt and sometimes dramatic impact at a hormonal level. Changes in certain hormonal interactions may clearly contribute to depressive mood changes in some women.
When a woman gets pregnant, stress chemicals like cortisol surge in response to the physical changes taking place in her body. But the tranquilizing effect of progesterone, as well as elevated estrogen levels, moderates the mother’s brain and body’s response to those stress chemicals.[ii]
Hormones act as the body’s chemical messengers, sending information and feeding back responses between different tissues and organs. During the initial days of a pregnancy, hormones travel around the body, usually via the blood, and attach to proteins on the cells called receptors – much like a key fits a lock or a hand fits a glove. In response to this, the target tissue or organ changes its function so that pregnancy is maintained. [iii]
The hormone, Oxytocin also kicks into the new mother’s bloodstream during the early days of pregnancy. According to Science Daily, initial levels of Oxytocin at the first trimester predicted future mother/child bonding behavior. Mothers with a high level of Oxytocin at the beginning of the pregnancy engage more in bonding behaviors after their child is born.[iv]
Abortion obviously ends the maternal biological hormonal process. It would be very enlightening to study how post-abortive women -particularly those with high levels of Oxytocin that kick in the bonding behavior – endure at an emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical level after the abrupt ending of their pregnancy.
At a deeper level, the physical and emotional stress of an unexpected pregnancy can impact this biological hormonal process as well, filling a mother with anxiety and fear. Making an abortion choice entails a deeper ordeal which can come as a shock to a potential new mother’s system.
From thousands of conversations with post-abortive woman, there is clear fallout from the hormonal resettling immediately after abortion. The physical shock of choosing and enduring an abortion clearly entails trauma at a hormonal, physical and emotional level.
The simple definition of trauma outlines common post-abortive circumstances:
- An event, emotion or feeling that goes beyond the range of typical human involvement;
- Is overpowering at a physical and emotional level, or both;
- Usually includes a threat to your bodily integrity or that of a loved one;
- May involve a single shocking event or a series of episodes that progressively accumulate to overwhelm you.
Abortion, Infertility, pregnancy loss, and postpartum depression are traumas because they impact a mother’s physical and emotional sense of self. These situations present a woman with multiple, complicated losses that relate to her most important relationships.
Trauma makes a person feel like they do not belong. Understanding the trauma of abortion can help a woman understand the depth of her emotions which can then initiate God’s healing process.
My answer to the woman who wrote above was to outline that her hormones were in a state of flux and that she could be enduring postpartum depression. After my own abortion, I also thought I was literally going crazy. I know now those emotions were hormonally based because I felt similar during some moments of menopause.
I never considered in the hours after my abortion that the hormonal shift of my body losing my unborn child in such an artificial way could be the reason for my depression. No one at the abortion clinic that served me outlined the physical changes my body would endure as a result of terminating my pregnancy.
Long term, I still have no clue how the abrupt loss of my child impacted my body at a physical level. I certainly fell into a depression cycle which I medicated with drugs and alcohol. From mothering my three subsequent children, I believe my Oxytocin levels were always extremely high. Short circuiting that natural bonding hormone clearly had implications that led to my depression.
Over the years, I’ve addressed the choice itself, forgiven those involved – including myself, and those who pushed me to make that choice – and, with God’s help, resolved the spiritual and emotional pain. The consequences of making an abortion decision were vastly larger than I ever dreamed possible.
Because abortion is medically common and a political issue, the impact of abortion is often underestimated. But this choice often involves a traumatic loss, not only of the pregnancy, but of a woman’s sense of self and her hopes and dreams of the future. She has lost her ‘reproductive story,’ and that needs to be considered and grieved.
When I realized that I had lost a child in that choice, Godly sorrow began to hit my heart. By grieving this child, naming him and having a memorial for him, most of my depression issues were resolved. I was empowered to help other women make better choices than abortion as well as comfort those struggling after this choice.
God’s word from Isaiah 60:20 NIV outlines that abortion pain can be healed – Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling in any way after abortion, Ramah International is here to help. Visit our healing site to learn more about this pain and the amazing healing that God offers!