After an Abortion: Psychological/emotional reactions and behaviors

March 17, 2017

It is important to realize that when a woman has an abortion it constitutes a significant loss in her life. An abortion often extends into the lives of those around her, depending on the circumstances. This loss may be immediately experienced, it may surface over time, or it may even coexist with an initial emotion of relief.

Often the event of an abortion is minimized or denied. It often feels as though our society conveys the message that having an abortion solves the problem of an unplanned pregnancy. Therefore, when a woman starts to experience painful emotions regarding her abortion, or perhaps denies the existence of such emotions, many women feel alone in the loss and are unable to express their emotions in a safe environment. Unhealthy behaviors to mask this loss often occur. This can take many forms and range in severity, from mild to severe. These behaviors may occur daily, sporadically, or be triggered by a memory, or on the anniversary, of the event. Interestingly, some women experience these symptoms decades after the event if they have allowed their feelings about the abortion(s) to remain unresolved.

Before delving into the more specific unhealthy behaviors, it may be of interest to note that there is now significant amounts of research about post-abortive reactions and behaviors. Indeed, a review of published research, conducted over a 15-year period found that, after an abortion, women had an 81% increased risk for mental health problems. Nearly 10% of those mental health problems were shown to be directly attributable to the abortion.” (Priscilla K. Coleman, British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011). In addition, many women suffer from PTSD following an abortion, as reported by research published in the well-respected Archives of General Psychiatry. (Brenda Major, Archives of General Psychology, 2000). A Finnish study also concluded: “The suicide rate after an abortion was three times the general suicide rate and six times that associated with birth.”

A partial list of unhealthy behaviors experienced after an abortions are listed below: (

Unhealthy Behaviors Experienced After an Abortion

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive Disorders
  • Cutting/Self Abuse
  • Depression
  • Difficulty Getting Close or Caring for Others
  • Eating Disorders
  • Frozen Emotions
  • Gambling/Overspending
  • Mood Swings
  • Overworking
  • Phobia
  • Risky Behavior/Risk taking
  • Self -medicating with Alcohol
  • Self-medicating with Drugs
  • Sexual Dysfunction or Sexual Acting Out
  • Signs of Complicated Grief
  • Unhealthy/Abusive Relationships
  • Violence

It is worth explaining what the category “Signs of Complicated Grief” means. Grief is a complex emotional process that if stopped or denied may result in symptoms of “Complicated Grief”. Some of these symptoms include anxiety, dulled sense of feeling, fear or avoidance of children, fixating on another child, flashbacks, nightmares, rage, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and inability to recall parts of event. It is advised that if a woman experiences any or several of these symptoms for more than a month, she should seek professional medical help.

Unfortunately, the reality is that many women do not seek help for 5 to 12 years after having an abortion. It is also true that some women bury their pain for decades during which time the coping strategies produce even more problems and pain. Some women have no idea where to turn or where such help is available. The good news is that there is help available! A woman may choose between having one-on-one help or group help, but in any case, the person (or persons) she chooses should be trained or experienced specifically in abortion aftercare healing services.

Options Health is a safe place where you can confidentially come and discuss sexual health, pregnancy, and relationship issues with one of our client advocates. Feel free to contact us today to take advantage of our free services, including pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, abortion consultation, options counseling, and even after abortion counseling. We are here for you and ready to listen!