Abortion is not an easy decision as it has profound emotional and psychological effects on women, in general
By Dr Manisha Yadav
Do you know that whatever the cause, an abortion can affect both woman’s psychology and physiology? Frankly speaking abortion is not safer than full-term pregnancy and childbirth (when pregnancy is safe).
In some studies it is seen that some women report to have a sense of relief after having an abortion and others tend to become depressed due to unwanted abortion or miscarriage. The reasons for relief and depression may also vary from woman to woman.
A woman may need abortion or termination of pregnancy due to multiple reasons. Sometimes, unwanted pregnancies may force such a step, at other times a couple may decide on termination due to other reasons such as severe congenital defects in the foetus or potentially dangerous health complications of the pregnancy.
Psychological side effects of having an abortion are as real as physical side effects. Emotional and psychological effects following abortion are more common than physical side effects and can range from mild regret to more serious complications such as depression. Post abortion, it is very much necessary to discuss all the risks in detail with an experienced professional who can address all the queries and related concerns.
One of the most important factors related to the negative emotional or psychological effects has to do with your belief about the baby inside of you. Some of the females experience less chance of negative emotional consequences as they have a more detached view of the pregnancy and consider the foetus as an undeveloped life. However, some other women might have a more emotional outlook towards the pregnancy and strongly look at the life inside as a baby. Such women tend to have negative consequences after an abortion or miscarriage.
Following are the possible 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 eating disorders, anxiety, regret, anger, guilt, shame, relationship issues, sense of loneliness or isolation, loss of self confidence, insomnia or nightmares, suicidal thoughts and feelings and depression.
Following abortion it is possible for anyone to experience unexpected emotional or psychological side effects. Women generally report that the abortion procedure affected them more than they expected. However, it is often noticed that some individuals are more prone to experiencing some kind of emotional or psychological struggle.
Women with a higher probability of having a negative emotional or psychological side effect include:
• Individuals who obtain an abortion in the later stages of pregnancy
• 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 without support from significant others or their partner
• Women obtaining an abortion for genetic or fetal abnormalities
Advice regarding 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. You can even consult a psychologist if you are going through anxiety.
• 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. Feel free to discuss your problem with your loved ones and take them into confidence before arriving at a decision. This will reduce your guilt or anxiety.
• 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 your perspective and understanding.
• Avoid Pressure – Avoid people who are pressuring you to do what they think is best. Whether you opt to be parent, choose adoption, or have an abortion, you are the one who is going to have to live with your choice. So, the decision has to be 100% your own.
• 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.
Physical side effects after an abortion can vary from woman to woman. It is important to know about the possible detailed side effects of abortion from experienced health professional as well as the doctor. It is mandatory that your period should return about 4- 6 weeks after abortion and you can conceive again after the abortion. It is important to take prescribed antibiotics as directed by your doctor in order to help prevent infection.
Following are the physical side effects that are frequently experienced after an abortion. The possible duration to experience these side effects are 2 to 4 weeks following procedure.
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Spotting and bleeding
About 5-10% of women suffer from immediate complication. It is important to be aware of the following risks:
• Heavy or persistent bleeding
• Infection or sepsis/PID/ Endometriosis
• Damage to the cervix
• Scarring of the uterine lining (Asherman’s syndrome)
• Damage to other organs
• Perforation of the uterus
• Endotoxic shock and death
It is necessary to have abortion done by a qualified and trained professional. Also, if you have an abortion, you should continue to meet doctor and seek medical attention in order to get healthy and fit as soon as possible.
(The author is a Medical Practitioner, New Delhi)