The decision to have an abortion is never an easy one.
For some women (and men), the decision is relatively straightforward and relief is the primary emotion felt.
However, for others, terminating a pregnancy can result in a number of emotional responses including sadness, loneliness, shame, guilt, doubt, regret and anger. Feelings can be mixed and may seem contradictory. For instance, some women may initially feel relief but then also feel regret or anger; others may feel bad about themselves because they don’t feel guilty, and believe that they should. Everyone is different in how they feel following an abortion and no emotional response is wrong.
Why Would a Woman Choose Abortion?
A woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy may be influenced by a number of factors including:
- Financial stability;
- Work/study goals;
- Their relationship with their partner, or the absence of a relationship;
- Their age;
- Existing family size and needs of other children;
- Cultural background, values and beliefs;
- Feelings of readiness to be a parent;
- The physical wellbeing of the foetus;
- Their own mental and physical health;
- The level of support they have from extended family.
Despite huge progress in recent decades to legalise abortion and make it a safe procedure, social stigma around abortion does still exist. This can make it difficult for women and men to share their experiences, which can in turn, leave them feeling isolated and unsupported.
You are Not Alone
Many people are surprised to learn that an estimated 42 million women worldwide have abortions each year. In Australia, around half of all unplanned pregnancies end in termination, and one in three women will choose to have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is the most common gynecological procedure in Australia and in 2009, approximately 150,000 abortions occurred in Queensland (according to Medicare rebates).
As these numbers indicate, many women choose abortion every year and each of these women makes the best decision they can, based on their own circumstances.
Abortion Affects Men Too
Abortion is often treated exclusively as a women’s issue, however men can also struggle to cope.
Men are just as susceptible to feelings of loss, grief and anger as women; however, men often report focusing on helping their female partner through a termination, which leaves little time for them to process the experience themselves. In one research study men reported still thinking about the experience years later, largely due to a failure to process events at the time they occurred.
Post Abortion Counselling
Healing after an abortion is possible but can take time. It is important to recognise that the first few weeks might be difficult; your body will be dealing with a lot of hormonal changes so if you feel your emotions are up and down this is very normal.
Try to be compassionate to yourself at this time and surround yourself with supportive people. You do not need lectures or people putting their judgments on you. Try to talk about your experience with your partner or people you trust as this is likely to speed up the healing process. If feelings of guilt, sadness or anger come up, try to name these feelings and avoid using alcohol or other substances to cope.
If you or your partner are struggling following a termination, you may find it beneficial to book an appointment for some post abortion counselling with a registered psychologist such as myself, to help you cope at this difficult time.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered Clinical Psychologist, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.