Getting pregnant and having an abortion was probably never on your bucket list.
The whole experience might have felt like a rollercoaster ride you couldn’t wait to end.
But now that it’s over, you might feel like it changed you in ways you can’t yet understand.
While many people don’t talk about the mental aftermath of an abortion, it is common to struggle with mental and emotional trauma after the event.
Almost thirty years ago, the Journal of Social Issues dedicated an entire issue filled with contributions about the psychological effects of induced abortion. In conclusion of the issue, the editor, Dr. Gregory Wilmoth, said, “There is now virtually no disagreement among researchers that some women experience negative psychological reactions post abortion.”
But even if your abortion was decades ago, you don’t have to live in a dark mental and emotional state. You can move forward with hope and healing.
Why Do Women Struggle Mentally After an Abortion?
There are many reasons why women may struggle internally after their abortion. Here are a couple of common ones:
- They thought life would go back to the way it was before the unplanned pregnancy. However, they soon realize life is forever changed. Abortion can’t undo a pregnancy, nor does abortion prevent your heart and body from life-long scars. One post-abortive woman shared,
“Nobody had mentioned the resentment I would feel towards others who were pregnant and able to carry their baby to term. The sense of injustice I would feel every time I saw or held a baby during the subsequent weeks. The jealousy of seeing strangers in the street pushing a pram. The longing. The grief. The regret.”
- They got an abortion so their boyfriend wouldn’t leave them. However, even after the abortion, they still feel the lingering threat of abandonment and constantly feel the need to earn affection. Often he leaves anyway.
- They didn’t realize they made the choice to abort their child out of pressure from parents or others. Now they realize they wanted that child and regret not pushing back more.
- They struggle because they feel they don’t have the right to grieve for something they chose, so they never process feelings of hurt or loss. This leads to bitterness towards themselves and others involved with the abortion.
What Are the Signs of Mental Struggle After an Abortion?
Mental stress can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes women do not tie these symptoms to their abortion until they have talked with a counselor.
Commonly post-abortive women may struggle with:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Self-harming behaviors like eating disorders or cutting. (You may be subconsciously punishing yourself due to unprocessed guilt or shame.)
- Knots in your stomach from lingering guilt you feel for violating your moral code
- Nightmares about the abortion and what you experienced
- Difficulty sleeping
- Depression that leads to outbursts of crying, the inability to enjoy anything, and even suicidal thoughts
- Apathy and numbness toward everything
- Preoccupation with becoming pregnant again
- Difficulty bonding with your other children
- Feeling uncomfortable around babies and pregnant women
What Can You Do to Heal?
If you are struggling with any of these common side effects post-abortion, please do not carry your burden alone. Share your story and your feelings about it with a trusted friend, a counselor, or a mentor.
Bringing others in will help lift the weight off your shoulders. And it will help you to discover that you are not alone. Many women in your shoes have found freedom and forgiveness that propelled them to even more meaningful lives.
Secondly, allow yourself to walk the road of grief. It will be a rugged valley to journey, but one step at a time, you can process your abortion, the circumstances that led to it, and the loss you feel now.
And lastly, you can call us. We have helped many women (and men) heal after their abortion. We have empathy for you and can help you process your experience.