The psychological and emotional side effects of abortion are more common than physical side effects and can range from mild regret to more serious complications such as depression. It is important to discuss these risks with a trained professional who can address your questions and concerns. The depression after an abortion is just as real as physical side effects.
For information about abortion, call us at the APA toll-free helpline at 1-800-672-2296.
What are the types of potential emotional and psychological sides effects following an abortion?
One important factor related to the vulnerability of negative emotional or psychological effects has to do with your belief about the baby inside of you. Those who believe it is not a baby until it is born to have less of a chance of experiencing negative emotional consequences. However, those who believe it is a baby are more likely to experience negative emotional side effects.
The following is a list of potential emotional and psychological risks of having an abortion. The intensity or duration of these effects will vary from one person to another.
Potential side effects include:
- Sense of loneliness or isolation
- Loss of self-confidence
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Relationship issues
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Eating disorders
Who’s more likely to experience depression after an abortion?
It is possible for anyone to experience an unexpected emotional or psychological side effect following an abortion. Women commonly report that the abortion procedure affected them more than they expected. However, some individuals are more susceptible to experiencing some type of emotional or psychological struggle.
Women with a higher probability of having a negative emotional or psychological side effect include:
- Individuals with previous emotional or psychological concerns
- Individuals who have been coerced, forced or persuaded to get an abortion
- Individuals with religious beliefs that conflict with abortion
- Individuals with moral or ethical views that conflict with abortion
- Individuals who obtain an abortion in the later stages of pregnancy
- Individuals without support from significant others or their partner
- Women obtaining an abortion for genetic or fetal abnormalities
Recommendations for someone considering an abortion
Get Help – Probably the most important thing you can do when facing an unplanned pregnancy is to communicate with trained professionals who can answer your questions and discuss your individual circumstances with you.
Avoid Isolation – If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, you might have the tendency to withdraw from others to keep the matter a secret and/or to face the issue alone. Although it can be difficult, try to stay connected with family and friends who can support you. Too much isolation under these circumstances can lead to depression.
Evaluate Your Circumstances – See the situations listed previously regarding individuals who are more likely to experience one or more side effects. Discuss your situation with someone who can help you give you perspective and understanding.
Avoid Pressure – Avoid people who are pressuring you to do what they think is best. Whether you opt to parent, choose adoption, or have an abortion, you are the one who is going to have to live with your choice.
Talk to Others – See if you can find someone who has gone through an unplanned pregnancy or had an abortion to find out what it was like for them. You can also call us and talk to a pregnancy educator, toll free at 1-800-672-2296. There’s no judgement, only understanding and advice.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Adler, Nancy, et al. (2003). “Abortion Among Adolescents.” American Psychologist, 59(3), 211-7. Adler, Nancy. (1989) University of California at San Francisco, Statement on Behalf of the American Psychological Association Before the Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the Committee on Governmental Operations, U.S. House of Representatives: 130-140.
2. Adler, Nancy., et al (1990). “Psychological Responses after Abortion.” Science, 248(4951), 41-4.
3. Dagg, Paul. (1991) “The Psychological Sequelae of Therapeutic Abortion – Denied and Completed.” American Journal of Psychiatry, 148(5), 578-85.
4. Gilchrist, A., et al. (1995). “Termination of Pregnancy and Psychiatric Morbidity.” British Journal of Psychiatry, 167(2), 243-8.
5. Kishida, Yakuko. (2001). “Anxiety in Japanese Women After Elective Abortion.” Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 30, 490-5.
6. Major, Brenda, et al. (1992). “Male Partners’ Appraisals of Undesired Pregnancy and Abortion.” Archives of General Psychiatry, 57(9), 777-84.
7. Russo, Nancy & Denious, Jean. (2001) “Violence in the Lives of Women Having Abortions: Implications for Practice and Public Policy.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32(2), 142-50.
8. Zabin, Laurie, et al. (1989). “When Urban Adolescents Chose Abortion: Effects on Education, Psychological Status, and Subsequent Pregnancy” Family Planning Perspectives, 21(6), 248-55.
9. Zolese, G. & Blacker, C. (1992). “The Psychological Complications of Therapeutic Abortion.” British Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 742-9.