How to cope with depression after abortion

By Markus MacGill

Reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP

Emotional effects of abortion What is depression? Treatment for depressionAbortion and depression: Is there a link?

Emotional side effects are not uncommon after an abortion, or pregnancy termination, whether it was planned or not. In some cases, depression can occur. However, the link between pregnancy termination and depression remains unclear.

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is rarely an easy one, and it is not always the individual's preferred choice. Whether they choose a termination freely or not, they can have mixed feelings after the procedure.

In the United States, around half of all pregnancies are unplanned. This is one reason for choosing a termination. However, the reasons for not wanting to continue a pregnancy are varied.

Reasons include, but are by no means limited to, social, financial, or relationship pressures and physical or mental health problems in the parent or unborn child.

Regardless of the reason, the emotional response to a termination can range from relief, calm, and happiness to sadness, grief, loss, and regret, depending on the individual' situation.

If negative feelings are severe and persistent, they could be a sign of depression.

The issue of planned termination is a controversial one, and so is the question of mental health following a termination.

The important thing to remember is that each person's experience and response will be different.

As researchers for the American Psychological Association (APA) said in 2009, "it is important that women's varied experiences of abortion be recognized, validated, and understood."

  • guilt

  • anger

  • shame

  • remorse or regret

  • loss of self-esteem or self-confidence

  • feelings of isolation and loneliness

  • sleep problems and bad dreams

  • relationship problems

  • thoughts of suicide

In addition, some people may experience grief, stress, or a sense of loss and may feel less able to cope. If suicidal thoughts or self-harm occur, the person should seek urgent help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support 24/7. The number to call is 1-800-273-8255.

Religious beliefs, relationship problems, and social stigma can make it harder to cope, especially if these mean that the individual has nobody to talk to about what has happened.

In most cases, as time passes, these negative feelings will subside.

However, if there are additional issues, such as a sense of isolation or previous history of mental health problems, there may be a higher chance of depression occurring.

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