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If You are Thinking About Having an Abortion & After an Abortion

If You are Thinking About Having an Abortion & After an Abortion

December 09, 2023 18:10

December 09, 2023 19:18

Reading time: 34 minutes

Content

1. Facing a problem pregnancy

Coping with a difficult pregnancy decision can be an overwhelming experience. Just when you need clarity, the hormonal changes, emotional rollercoaster, fatigue, and nausea associated with pregnancy seem to cloud your thinking. Moreover, the people closest to you may struggle to support you, either due to their panic or a belief that this is too personal to discuss. It can feel like a whirlwind of unexpected changes when you thought you had everything figured out.

Once you recognize that you are in a seemingly impossible situation, dominated by the fickleness of fate, it’s important to stop blaming yourself or questioning your worth and competence. Instead, focus on taking responsibility for your decisions and their consequences. There are two main paths you can choose: continuing your pregnancy or terminating it.

2. Deciding to continue your pregnancy

It’s crucial to reach out to your local doctor or hospital right away to ensure your healthcare needs will be met throughout your pregnancy. If needed, the Clinic can offer appropriate referrals. Additionally, it may be beneficial to explore information about available government financial assistance and other forms of support.

If your intention is to continue your pregnancy intending to place your child for adoption, it’s important to seek specialist information and counseling. Services like the Royal Women’s Hospital Social Work Department and the Department of Human Services can provide the necessary guidance.

It’s worth noting that many unplanned pregnancies eventually result in happiness. It may just take some time to sort things out. The following information is not specifically targeted towards women who are likely to continue their pregnancy. However, for those women who do choose to continue their pregnancy, it’s natural to consider the abortion option to gain clarity.

If you’re still unsure about what to do, it may be helpful to explore the practical aspects of continuing your pregnancy. Consider questions related to family, partner, and other support systems, workplace and government entitlements, childcare options, financial considerations, living arrangements, educational commitments, potential health risks, and your vision of the future in one, five, six, or ten years’ time.

In some cases, a few women may find it challenging to make a clear decision and end up continuing their pregnancy by default. Remember, this is a legitimate way of reaching an outcome.

3. Deciding to terminate your pregnancy

If you choose to terminate your pregnancy, this article primarily focuses on women facing this decision for psychosocial reasons. Each year, over 80,000 Australian women make this decision due to these factors. (Note: This article does not cover the unique experiences of women terminating planned pregnancies due to detected abnormalities.) Ultimately, these women decide that ending the pregnancy is the best option given their circumstances. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that this decision is rarely an easy one.

Though no one enjoys having to choose a termination, taking action marks the end of the crisis for most women. At this point, you have made a well-thought-out decision based on your specific circumstances. It’s common to feel relief and experience improved functioning and well-being following the procedure.

Furthermore, receiving care at the Clinic ensures that your fertility remains intact, your reproductive health is up-to-date, and your contraceptive needs are addressed.

The following suggestions are aimed at helping you navigate the stress and confusion surrounding an unplanned or problematic pregnancy. They may also contribute to your well-being after an abortion.

4. A decision to terminate a pregnancy can be tough

Deciding to terminate a pregnancy can be an incredibly difficult and unique experience. Each situation is different, even if you’ve faced a problem pregnancy or abortion before. It may bring up issues you’ve never considered, create new emotions and thoughts, and even lead to doubts about your sanity.

This decision cannot be handed off to someone else, hastily made in the spur of the moment, avoided until a solution appears, or simply ignored. The time constraints and deeply personal nature of a problem pregnancy mean that you may struggle with your decision.

This struggle may be intensified if you have a complex reproductive, medical, or psychosocial history or if you feel lacking in support from your partner, family, or friends.

Rest assured, surgical termination of pregnancy is a safe, quick, and common procedure. Medical abortion is also a safe and common option. However, deciding to terminate a pregnancy naturally comes with some level of anticipation or concern about surgical procedures or the experience of miscarrying through medication.

For women who have a history of physical or sexual assault, anxiety about medical or surgical procedures can be particularly challenging. If this applies to you, the Fertility Control Clinic has developed specific strategies that may help alleviate your anxiety.

5. Feeling under pressure

It’s no surprise that when faced with decisions related to pregnancy, your physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual well-being may suffer before you have determined what to do and taken action.

Being pregnant can complicate the usual signs of stress or even alter them altogether. This speaks to the physically and psychologically demanding nature of pregnancy. It can be challenging to distinguish whether what you’re experiencing is a result of pregnancy symptoms, your emotional state, or a combination of both. The uncertainty surrounding the cause of your discomfort can add to your overall unease. Even if you attribute these symptoms to the pregnancy, they can still be distressing, and you may desire relief from these uncomfortable changes.

In the next section, we will explore some fundamental strategies to help alleviate the stress and distress you may be experiencing.

6. Basic stress management tips

When deciding whom to confide in about your situation, choose carefully. You are entitled to privacy, but sharing your predicament with others can be beneficial. It’s common to fear reactions from people, but occasionally those we anticipate negative responses from can turn out to be the most supportive. Although partners and parents might initially react with anger or panic, they can often become very helpful once they have had time to process the news.

Gaining answers to basic questions about available resources, the termination procedure, and other relevant information is crucial in deciding that aligns with your values. Expressing and discussing your fears or concerns, even if they may seem trivial or irrational to you, is important. Engaging in a conversation with a counselor at a Fertility Control Clinic or a clinical psychotherapist can provide valuable guidance to help you make an informed decision.

If you have previously sought help from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker, it may be in your best interest to reach out to them regarding your current situation.

It is essential to exercise caution when seeking information online and avoid contacting anti-choice (Pro-life, Right to Life) organizations. Unfortunately, these organizations advertise and provide misleading internet, phone, and in-person services claiming to offer pregnancy or abortion advice. Their religious or philosophical beliefs drive them to hinder access to abortion services, promote misinformation about abortion, and attempt to shame women in these circumstances. They often disapprove of contraception and comprehensive sex education as well.

Validating and understanding your experience is crucial. Some people may try to quickly “solve” the problem without fully acknowledging your emotions. It can be helpful to clearly communicate your needs and desires to your partner or family members, such as requesting a supportive hug, someone to listen, the sharing of their feelings or similar experiences, or practical assistance like taking care of children, preparing meals, or going out together.

Feeling reassured that you are not alone in your experience can provide a sense of relief. Understandably, there may be a historical stigma surrounding unplanned/problem pregnancies and abortions, which can distort perceptions of the present. Recognizing that others have faced similar situations and that your thoughts, feelings, and circumstances are not abnormal can be comforting. For instance, if you are a woman over thirty with children, who has always associated abortion with teenage sex or prostitution, knowing that over one in five women attending abortion clinics in Australia are over 30, over half fall into the 20 to 30 age range, and more than one in three have at least one child might offer solace.

Struggling with your Roman Catholic upbringing and your current predicament? You’re not alone. Did you know that a quarter of women attending the Fertility Control Clinic also had a Catholic upbringing? Regardless of religious background, women of all faiths experience unplanned pregnancies and elective abortions.

If you’re feeling embarrassed about being back at the clinic for a second or more termination, take comfort in knowing that approximately 1 in 3 women at the clinic have had a previous abortion. It’s important to remember that issues surrounding fertility are complex and there are no perfect or 100% reliable contraceptive methods.

In the midst of all these challenges, it’s crucial to give yourself some “time-out” activities. Continually dwelling on your situation won’t help you think clearly. Find something that engrosses you, whether it’s watching movies, listening to music, gardening, or engaging in sports. Pamper yourself to some extent as well.

Prioritize your needs for a while. Don’t hesitate to say “no” if you feel overwhelmed and ask others for help. Focus on doing things that are beneficial for you.

Maintaining a sensible and regular eating routine is important. If you’re experiencing nausea, try eating foods like fruits, toast, or dry biscuits. Ensuring you have enough nourishment will prevent exacerbating brain fog and irritability.

Do regular exercise a part of your routine, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. Exercising with a partner or friend can make it more enjoyable and keep you motivated. Physical activity improves your emotional and mental wellbeing and eases symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, or sleep deprivation. It releases tension, gives your body and mind a break from stress, boosts your fitness levels, metabolic rate, and mood, and helps you regain a sense of control.

Throughout the day, take a few moments to take deep breaths. When we’re tense, we tend to breathe shallowly. Deep breathing promotes physical and mental relaxation, helps reduce panic attacks, and aids in better sleep.

Consider accessing apps that provide mindfulness and relaxation strategies. These can offer additional support and tools to help you navigate your emotions and find moments of peace and tranquility.

7. Owning your decision

It’s common for women to worry about what others will think or believe they should do. At times, it may feel tempting to let someone else make the decision for you. However, it’s crucial to remember that you are the one living your life, and you are the best judge of what is right for you.

It’s easy to get caught up in blaming others for the circumstances that lead to your decision to terminate the pregnancy. But it’s important to acknowledge that while others may play a role in your situation, it’s part of the overall circumstances you have to navigate. By accepting this, you can focus on working with the resources and support available to you. Remember, you have the strength and ability to make the choices that align with your needs and values.

8. If you decide to have an abortion

Feeling anxious about undergoing a surgical procedure or medical abortion is completely normal. If you have specific concerns about anything related to the medical process (such as injections, internal exams, anesthesia, pain, or blood tests), it’s important to discuss them with the intake counselor, doctor, or clinic psychotherapist. They can offer you options to ease your anxiety during your medical care and remind you of any relaxation techniques you may have used in the past.

Seeking the information you need beforehand leads to a positive outcome. Sometimes, productive worry can help people cope better. Consider writing down your current feelings and circumstances so that if you ever question your decision in the future (as we humans often do), you can refer to these notes and remind yourself of the valid reasons behind the choice you made.

While looking ahead to the day of the procedure or the medical process and the days that follow, it’s important to plan for your comfort and reassurance. Even though most women experience relief and rapid physical improvement after a termination, aim to make the entire experience as easy as possible for yourself. Arrange for someone reliable to accompany you to the clinic, drive you home, and be there for you as much as you need. You may prefer certain people to others and find certain activities more beneficial during this time. Prioritize what makes you most comfortable and supported throughout the process.

9. Crisis & opportunity

In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is represented by two characters — one symbolizing danger and the other representing opportunity. For some women, facing a difficult decision regarding a problem pregnancy can be the catalyst for self-discovery and empowerment, regardless of the choice they ultimately make.

Making a major decision like this may be new for many women, but it can also be an opportunity to gain clarity about what you truly want in your life and to take more control of your path. It may surprise you to find strength within yourself and in your relationships that you didn’t know existed. Although it may not feel like it presently, summoning the courage to confront your situation and take ownership of your decision can ultimately lead to personal growth, increased maturity, and greater life satisfaction. Embrace this as a chance for self-reflection and a stepping stone toward a more fulfilling future.

10. After an abortion – if you need help

Following an elective termination of pregnancy, the majority of women experience a sense of relief and happiness as they regain control of their lives. The abortion represents an opportunity for women to take charge and make positive changes aligned with their life goals.

While it is true that approximately 1 in 10 women may experience troubling emotions after an abortion, research and clinical experience suggest that these feelings are usually temporary, mild, and do not require special intervention. Only a minimal number of women may face more prolonged distress, depression, or anxiety.

If you find yourself among the 1 in 10 women experiencing such emotions, it can be helpful to understand and tolerate your reactions to move towards improved well-being. The following information aims to provide insight and support as you navigate your emotional journey.

11. Recognizing the impact of the event

It’s important to recognize that facing an unplanned or problematic pregnancy can be a crisis. Research conducted at the Fertility Control Clinic indicates that women presenting with unplanned pregnancies typically experience high levels of stress. When surveyed using the Impact of Event Scale, which is commonly used to measure stress in traumatic situations, women facing problem pregnancies reported a wide range of stress levels, with an overall high average score. While some women reported minimal stress, others indicated significant stress levels. Despite the relatively short duration of the pregnancy, the intense emotional and physical experiences can take a toll on your well-being and relationships.

Society often portrays pregnancy as a delightful and romantic time, but even when planned and desired, it is recognized by health professionals and those willing to admit it as a stressful state. The rapid hormonal and physical changes can have a profound impact on pregnant women. During pregnancy, you may have become acutely aware of your body like never before. Some of these changes may have been pleasurable, while others may have been resented. Each woman’s experience with breast tenderness, tummy swelling, urinary frequency, morning sickness, and fatigue varies, yet they all indicate that you were undergoing a significant physiological and psychological stress.

Terminating the pregnancy abruptly may provide relief, but it can also introduce another physiological change that may be experienced as stressful. Some women may feel that despite everything being relatively fine after the termination, hormones are making them feel “blue,” irritable, moody, or fatigued. The close connection between the mind and body means that these responses are valid and shouldn’t be disregarded.

Pregnancy changes can also influence your thoughts and emotions. Some women find these changes wonderful, while others may perceive them as awful. You might have encountered new thoughts, feelings, and fantasies that you’ve never experienced before. Remember that this does not diminish the validity of your decision to terminate the pregnancy. However, such new experiences can challenge our sense of self and throw us unbalanced. Making such an important decision can also be life-altering and force you to confront aspects of your life and yourself that you’ve never faced before. It’s understandable that this may lead to heightened emotions outside your usual comfort zone. These thoughts and feelings are a normal response considering the circumstances of a decision about a problem pregnancy.

Some women may feel disturbed by feeling good after an abortion. They have been misled into thinking that emotional suffering is the norm following an abortion. They may believe that their lack of painful emotions is abnormal and indicates a lack of maternal emotion. If you find yourself anxious or depressed because you don’t feel anxious or depressed about your abortion, it’s essential not to fall for these myths. Feeling relief is normal and valid. You have gone through the challenging process of deciding, and it’s okay to congratulate yourself and embrace the opportunity to move forward.

12. Lacking self-confidence

If you’ve recently gone through the emotional and physical strain of facing a problem pregnancy and deciding to have an abortion, it’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions afterward. Many women in your position may find themselves feeling flat, teary, lacking in confidence, or socially withdrawn. It’s important to acknowledge and validate these feelings, even if you firmly believe that terminating the pregnancy was the right decision.

During this period of recovery, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Treat yourself kindly and seek support from friends, family, or professional counselors. Taking a break to rest and recuperate can help you regain your emotional balance. Remember that what you’ve been through was a crisis, and it’s completely understandable to need support and nurturing during this time.

Research and clinical experience show that having a supportive network of partners, family, or friends can greatly improve emotional well-being after an abortion. On the other hand, if you were in an abusive relationship, you may face additional challenges in moving towards emotional well-being. Seek help from professionals or support organizations that specialize in assisting women in such situations.

It’s common to experience a loss of confidence after an abortion, especially if you had previously felt controlling your life. The experience may have revealed how fragile our grip on our destiny can be. However, it’s important to recognize that life is unpredictable, and we all face challenges and unexpected events. Given the potential chaos that surrounds us, it’s remarkable that we’ve made it this far without major setbacks.

Understanding that fertility is complex and unpredictable can provide some perspective. Countless resources and vast amounts of money are spent on assisting individuals to reproduce when they want to. It’s not surprising that approximately 80,000 women in Australia seek abortions each year. By choosing to have an abortion, you’ve joined a vast community of women from all walks of life who, like you, had compelling and legitimate reasons to terminate their pregnancies.

Consider the fact that, despite the upheaval and anxiety you may have experienced, the abortion process itself is safe, simple, and widely accessible. It’s worth noting that some health rebates are available for this procedure. Reflect on these aspects to find some reassurance during your recovery.

Remember, your feelings are valid, and healing takes time. By acknowledging your emotions, seeking support, and caring for yourself, you can gradually regain your confidence and emotional well-being.

13. Isolation & guilt

Many women find themselves trapped in isolation when making decisions related to abortion. The societal taboos and guilt surrounding this topic often prevent them from confiding in anyone about their predicament. While it is important to carefully consider who you can trust, refusing to talk to anyone can leave you vulnerable and deprived of support.

Keeping your situation a secret from friends and family deprives you of your normal support network. It also denies you the opportunity for an outside perspective, someone who can validate your decision or share their experiences. It’s understandable that you may have kept your pregnancy and abortion a secret due to feeling like a terrible person. However, this secrecy only reinforces those negative thoughts.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s crucial to identify someone you can talk to about your situation. Consider reaching out to a pregnancy professional, a close friend, or a family member who you trust. Additionally, reading personal accounts of abortion from others can provide a more healthy perspective. Organizations like Family Planning Victoria have a good library and bookshop where you can find resources.

Remember, treating yourself with the same compassion you would give to a good friend can help alleviate judgment and punishment. Seeking support and educating yourself about other people’s experiences can help you gain a broader understanding of your situation.

14. Anger at those you love

After going through an abortion, it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of anger towards your partner or loved ones. However, expressing this anger towards those you care about can create tension and strain relationships. You might recognize that this anger is irrational and self-destructive, leading to feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Understanding the reasons behind your anger can be helpful in addressing and overcoming it. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. Feeling that it’s unfair: When something bad happens, it’s natural to feel that it shouldn’t have happened and that someone should be held responsible. While blaming a higher power may seem logical, it’s often considered unacceptable. Alternatively, your partner may have been intimately involved in causing the crisis, making it easier to direct your anger towards them. However, venting your rage in this manner is typically unsatisfying and can damage your relationships, especially when you need their support the most.
  2. Loss of control: The unexpected pregnancy and abortion may have triggered a realization that you are not completely controlling your life. The anger you feel towards others could be a response to any hint that things are going in a direction you don’t want. This can manifest in overreacting to minor disagreements or feeling overwhelmed when someone asks something of you that feels beyond your capabilities. Paradoxically, in attempting to assert control, you may find yourself lashing out uncontrollably. It’s important to recognize that setting extreme rules for yourself, such as swearing off sex or disregarding contraception, can ultimately be self-destructive and prevent you from responsibly considering your options.
  3. Toddler-like tantrums: Under duress, it’s not uncommon for adults to display tantrum-like behavior reminiscent of toddlers. However, tantrums rarely lead to successful and happy lives. Toddlers’ brains are still developing, and their life experience is limited. Adopting a similar mindset can hinder your ability to make responsible choices and perpetuate the risk of repeating problem pregnancies.

To grow from this experience and use it constructively, consider taking the following steps:

  • — Find a contraception method that suits your lifestyle and physiology.
  • — Attend assertiveness training classes to become more sexually assertive, prioritize your sexual health, and prevent future pregnancies.
  • — Evaluate if you’re in a relationship where your needs consistently go unrecognized.
  • — Address any drug or alcohol problems and make positive changes in your life.

It’s important to recognize that having an abortion doesn’t make you a horrible person deserving of punishment or a life devoid of enjoyment. This belief may fuel anger towards yourself while pushing away those who care about you. In such cases, you may be feeling depressed, unworthy, and hopeless without fully realizing the underlying anger. It’s crucial to seek support from loved ones and professional resources to work through these emotions and regain a sense of self-worth.

15. Anger management

How can you effectively manage your anger? Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Open up communication: Talk to your partner, family, and friends about your feelings. Instead of expecting them to know what you need, ask for support or a listening ear. Remember that they may not have experienced this situation before, so be patient and clear in expressing your needs. Asking for what you need instead of demanding understanding can lead to healthier communication and understanding. Treat yourself and others with kindness.
  2. Rationalize your thoughts: Remind yourself that unfortunate things happen in life, and it is normal to feel discomfort and anger in such situations. Understand that you are human, and it is natural to react strongly to a difficult predicament. Avoid putting pressure on yourself to instantly resolve these distressing feelings. Give yourself time to process and work through them.
  3. Seek accurate information: Educate yourself about abortion and women’s issues. Seek factual information from reliable sources instead of being influenced by misleading propaganda from anti-choice groups. Understand that you are not alone in facing an untimely pregnancy. Many women, from various backgrounds, have faced similar situations where continuing the pregnancy would have jeopardized their well-being and the well-being of those they love. Deciding to have an abortion does not diminish your qualities as a caring, responsible, and moral person. Reflect on past moments when you faced emotional challenges, and consider seeking assistance from a psychologist or doctor who has helped you in the past.
  4. Practice anger management techniques: Take the time to identify your “early warning signs” of anger, such as specific thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or physical sensations. As soon as you notice these signs, practice deep breathing, use rational self-talk, or remove yourself from the situation if possible to create space and defuse your feelings. Sometimes, finding a quiet moment alone can prove helpful in calming yourself down and giving yourself the necessary time and space for self-reflection. With a little time and distance, you can better understand what is truly upsetting you and find more productive ways to address and manage your emotions.
  5. Implement stress management strategies: Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as regular exercise, balanced eating, sufficient sleep, deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and minimizing drug use. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being can contribute to a healthier mindset and overall stress reduction.

Remember, effectively managing your anger is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and seek the support and resources that can help you navigate through this challenging experience.

16. Falling into the gender trap

How to Strengthen Your Relationship After an Abortion

Going through an abortion can be an emotionally challenging experience for both partners, and it’s important to understand and address the different coping styles that may arise. Here are some tips on how to improve your relationship and well-being after an abortion:

  1. Communicate openly: Acknowledge and discuss the differences in how you and your partner cope with emotions. Be honest about your needs and expectations during this time.
  2. Express your feelings: If you feel the need to discuss your emotions surrounding the abortion, let your partner know. Help them understand that sharing your feelings and experiences is essential for your healing process.
  3. Educate your partner: Since your partner may not be as skilled at dealing with emotions, take the time to teach them how to be more empathetic and supportive. Let them know that they don’t have to fix everything, but their presence and understanding mean a lot to you.
  4. Seek professional help if needed: Is you’re finding it challenging to communicate effectively or if your emotions are overwhelming, consider seeking counseling or therapy. A trained professional can provide guidance and support for both of you.
  5. Show compassion and patience: Remember that both you and your partner are going through this experience together. Be patient with each other’s process and offer compassion and understanding.
  6. Focus on the relationship: Use this opportunity to deepen your connection and strengthen your relationship. Try to listen, support, and be there for each other beyond the abortion experience.
  7. Take care of yourself: While supporting your partner, don’t forget to prioritize your well-being. Practice self-care, engage in activities that bring you joy, and seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups.

By recognizing and addressing the differing coping styles, you can create a more empathetic and understanding relationship, allowing both of you to heal and grow stronger together after an abortion.

17. The relationship stops working

Discovering unexpected characteristics about your partner during a pregnancy crisis can be a harsh wake-up call. It becomes clear that your partner is not the person you thought they were. Their disregard for your feelings deeply hurts you and ultimately leads to the end of the relationship. While you may convince yourself that it’s better to find out now rather than investing more in a doomed relationship, it’s natural to feel pain and loss when it ends.

It’s important to avoid wrongly blaming the abortion for the downfall of the relationship. The truth is that the relationship itself was lacking. It’s crucial to differentiate between the image you had constructed of this man and your envisioned future, and the reality of whom he truly is and what the relationship actually entails.

18. Interest in sex

Experiencing a pregnancy scare can significantly impact your confidence and feelings towards safe sexual relationships. It’s natural to feel anxious or even avoid sex altogether, which can potentially create conflicts within yourself or your relationship. Some women become so overwhelmed that they vow to never have sex again, or constantly seek morning-after pills or pregnancy tests, despite diligently using contraception.

It’s essential to maintain perspective in this situation. Think about the countless times you’ve had sex without getting pregnant, which far outweigh the instances when you did. If anything, a pregnancy scare or abortion can prompt you to explore more reliable contraception methods and use them consistently. This experience can deepen your knowledge about contraception, protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections, and enhance your ability to avoid similar pitfalls in the future. You may also find productive ways to discuss safe sex with your partner and discover fulfilling and enjoyable sexual activities beyond intercourse.

Abortion is often considered a last resort among various methods of fertility control, including abstinence, barrier methods, long-acting contraceptives, oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraception, medical abortion, and surgical abortion. Globally, millions of women and men are grateful for its availability. Unfortunately, we still don’t have contraception that is 100% safe, reliable, and easy to use, and people are naturally prone to laziness, shyness, impulsiveness, passion, forgetfulness, and irrationality. Welcome to being human.

After experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, it’s crucial to give yourself time to navigate the multitude of issues that arise and require your attention. Be understanding towards yourself and communicate your need for personal space and understanding from your partner.

19. Loss and grief

One of the most challenging and painful aspects of post-abortion distress is the experience of loss and grief, although it is relatively uncommon. This occurs when a woman becomes pregnant without feeling she has the necessary support and resources to become a parent. Despite these circumstances, she may have a deep maternal bond with her pregnancy and a strong desire to continue it and become a mother. In such cases, pregnancy counseling would typically encourage the woman to explore options for gathering support from family, friends, agencies, and finances, so that she could pursue motherhood.

If abortion remains the only viable choice, even after exhausting all possibilities of continuing the pregnancy, the woman may undergo a grief process and potentially experience feelings of guilt. It is essential to offer comfort and allow these women to express their grief openly, acknowledge and cherish the importance of their loss, and grant them permission to both hold on to the experience and move forward from it. Grief can be about learning how to remember rather than solely letting go. Sometimes engaging in a private ritual or participating in a service with a celebrant can provide solace.

The strong attachment to a pregnancy and subsequent feelings of loss after an abortion can be connected to fantasies and ideas about the pregnancy as if it were already a person. Exploring these ideas further may be crucial for healing. Abortion may be a societal taboo, but other sensitive issues surround it. One of these is a woman’s maternal bond to a terminated pregnancy. Another is considering the religious or spiritual aspects of an aborted pregnancy, especially when the woman viewed the pregnancy as already being a person. It’s important to have the opportunity to discuss these thoughts, clarify personal beliefs, and find comfort. Avoiding fanatical and judgmental anti-choice literature or “counseling” is important, as they are likely to increase feelings of guilt and hinder the exploration of more loving and healthy interpretations of the abortion experience.

Sometimes, reframing the abortion as an affirming experience can be helpful. For instance, it may highlight your fertility and the ability to plan accordingly. It may also deepen your understanding of the significance of motherhood and strengthen your commitment to prepare for a future pregnancy with dedication and energy. It can reinforce the tremendous love you have for your children and how precious they are. Ultimately, the reasons for choosing to abort a pregnancy can be influenced by factors beyond your control, as well as your recognition of the realistic limits of what you can manage.

In this context, your abortion decision affirms your love for and commitment to the children you already have or plan to have in the future, the relationship you know requires nurturing, the job or education that provides future security, and a multitude of other genuine and positive goals in your life.

20. The wrong decision

Following an abortion, a minority of women may start to convince themselves that they could have managed to continue the pregnancy, leading them to believe they made the wrong decision. This perspective can bring about significant distress and anguish.

Once a crisis subsides, it becomes easy to rewrite the narrative and overlook certain aspects of the decision-making process. This revision is often based on a fantastical and idealized view of how one had hoped things would unfold. It can result in feelings of guilt, self-blame, and a strong desire to compensate for the perceived “wrong” decision by becoming pregnant again. However, it is essential to understand that seeking another pregnancy might be counterproductive if the circumstances haven’t truly changed and remain unsupportive or hostile towards providing a nurturing environment for a child, and if you still believe you are unable to continue a pregnancy.

Recognizing that you made the best decision you could at that particular moment is crucial, even if you now have doubts about it.

21. My head says…my heart says…

During the process of decision-making and beyond, many women find themselves torn between the practical, logical reasons to have an abortion and the emotional pull to continue their pregnancy. This dichotomy often accurately captures the way women experience this dilemma. However, it is also possible that this division between the practical and emotional aspects tricks women into overlooking and undervaluing the highly charged emotional issues that may exist on the practical side of the decision.

For instance, while financial concerns, existing familial responsibilities, educational or career aspirations, or being in a new relationship may all seem like practical reasons to choose abortion, they are also aspects of life that evoke strong emotions. Losing these aspects or compromising one’s ability to invest in them can be devastating. Consider the case of a financially struggling family who deeply loves and adores their children. The mother, driven by moral and emotional compulsion, wishes to provide the best possible care for her existing children. She would resist any alternative that jeopardizes their well-being. This is not solely a practical reason to terminate a pregnancy; it is deeply emotional. This woman is passionate about her children and is committed to their care.

When referring to the terms “practical” and “logical,” they might encompass aspects of life that seem beyond one’s control. These factors are already in motion and may impose significant limitations on continuing a pregnancy. However, denying their emotional importance and disregarding the reality of the existing world in favor of an idealized world without constraints is a departure into fantasy. By dismissing the practical aspects as insignificant, they are deemed insufficient reasons to have influenced one’s decision. This shift into the realm of fantasy assumes boundless coping abilities, limitless finances, an extensive support network, perfect health, unlimited time, unwavering energy, endless creativity, infinite patience, and flawless genes. It imagines a world without limitations or imperfections.

Of course, in an ideal scenario, one could continue a pregnancy without putting anything or anyone at risk. In this imagined world, one would not need to consider any practical, limiting, or real issues. Emotions would be the sole driving force. However, after deciding to abort a pregnancy, if one begins to think in this manner, it is crucial to recognize that at the time of the decision, the choice made was the best one possible.

At that point, you were acutely aware of the practicalities and their importance. You were living in the real world, acknowledging its complexity and imperfections. Now that the crisis of the pregnancy has passed, it is natural to be drawn into the realm of “what if.” To help reconcile with your decision, it may be helpful to honestly explore and answer the question, “what if I had continued the pregnancy?” within the confines of the real world. This process could ultimately lead to a better appreciation and respect for yourself, acknowledging the bravery and compassion demonstrated in making this challenging decision. Eventually, you may reach a point where you fully own and accept your decision, realizing that you no longer deserve to suffer.

22. Abortion is the cause of all my problems

After going through the challenging process of deciding and undergoing an abortion, you might expect everything to feel wonderful afterward. You might believe you’ve made a significant sacrifice or endured a tough situation due to an unexpected pregnancy and subsequent abortion. However, if you discover that things are just the same as they were before you became pregnant or even worse, especially if the crisis has exposed issues in your relationships, you may be tempted to view the abortion negatively. It’s important to be cautious and not fall into the trap of attributing all your problems to having had an abortion, as this draws upon anti-choice or right-to-life mythology.

For a few women, post-abortion distress stems from the recent experience triggering past losses, whether they be related to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, long-standing issues regarding their ability to cope, vulnerability, or previous psychiatric difficulties. It is crucial to recognize when this may be the case, although it can be challenging to do so.

If you have sought help from someone or an agency in the past whom you found supportive, it may be beneficial to consult them again. Alternatively, you can reach out to the nearest clinic and request to speak with a psychotherapist.