Depression After Abortion: Why It Happens & How To Cope With It


Both politically and socially, abortion has remained a highly sensitive topic in the US and Europe. Although medical abortion is a highly safe medical procedure, many myths have surrounded the topic over the years.

Some say that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, others say that it affects fertility, and others say it may cause emotional trauma and depression. Although some of the factors may be true, it appears that abortion is safe and does not cause most of those health issues.

There is a reason why so many women would like to have a right to abortion. It appears that despite the use of various ways of contraception, unplanned pregnancies are not rare. Studies suggest that almost 50% of all pregnancies in the US or the developed world are unplanned [1].

Before diving deeper into the topic and looking at what the science says, it is worth knowing that unplanned pregnancy is not the only cause of abortion. For example, women who got pregnant and did not have a stable relationship are more likely to go for an abortion.

It means that many women goings for abortions have some pre-existing issues that may make them prone to mental health issues.

What is depression after abortion?

Many women may experience post-traumatic stress after abortion. However, depression is quite a different mental health issue. It should not be confused with PTSD.

Depression is not so much about fear. It is about losing hope and interest in life. Depression makes a person feel fatigued. A person with depression stops enjoying life. It is also among the leading causes of suicidal thoughts.

Thus, if you have some mood issues, it does not mean you are living with depression. Depression is quite a severe illness; even doctors find it hard to diagnose.

If you have some emotional issues post-abortion, you are more likely to live with anxiety and PTSD.

What does science say regarding depression post-abortion?

Depression after abortion is a bit of a controversial subject. Not everyone agrees that abortion may increase depression risk. Most doctors think that abortion may instead cause some minor mental health issues. Nonetheless, accumulation data shows a few things:

Abortion does affect mental health in some cases

Various mental health organizations have studied the subject. Thus, a report by American Psychological Association’s (APA) Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion (TFMHA) found that abortion does affect mental health, at least in some women. For example, it causes grief, feeling of sadness, and feelings of loss and may lead to anxiety or depression in some [2].

The report found that about 1.5% of women do show some symptoms of mental health issues even a couple of years after the abortion. It seems that some women adjust poorly to the post-abortion phase and do require some counseling.

However, here one should be careful interpreting the results. Some of these studies included miscarriage, which is a much more traumatic event than abortion carried out by choice.

It appears that some women are more susceptible to negative outcomes

Not all women are equal, and thus naturally, some of them are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues after an abortion. Below are the examples of women who are more likely to develop post-abortion depression [2]:

  • Women who carry out abortion under pressure from others like sex partners or family members
  • Women who would like to continue their pregnancy but had to terminate it for some reasons
  • When other family members oppose abortion, it may raise a feeling of guilt and even depression
  • Lack of social support from others
  • There is some social stigma associated with abortion, and thus it may affect mental health
  • Prior history of mental health issues
  • Lack of understanding about abortion and thus difficulty in coping with abortion mentally
  • History of prior abortion
  • Abortion after the first trimester

Some of the above women are at greater risk of developing emotional trauma related to abortion and thus at a greater risk of depression.

Studies consistently show that abortion increases the risk of mental health issues

Another reason to consider the risk of depression after abortion is the data from studies. In the last hundred years, so many studies have been done on the subject, and most of those studies show that there is some increase in the risk of mental health issues caused by abortion.

Even if we disagree with these studies, it is natural to conclude that abortion almost has no known benefit for mental health. Although, abortion may sometimes be good for physical health.

Of course, there is some controversy surrounding the issue, as some doctors say that most of this data comes from observational studies and not from well-designed clinical studies. But then, considering that carrying clinical studies into the subject is impossible, one must rely on observational data.

How to prepare for abortion?

Given the findings to date, it would be correct to say that abortion does increase the risk of mental health issues in some women. However, it seems that this increase in the risk is only in women with certain pre-existing factors. Thus, it is possible to identify these high-risk women and take measures to reduce the risk of post-abortion depression in them.

For women, sharing all the physical and mental health information with the doctors before an abortion is essential. For doctors, it is necessary to provide sufficient information and mental health counseling.

It is necessary to understand that abortion is quite a safe medical procedure these days, and it is not likely to cause any physical health issues. However, escaping mental trauma may be difficult for some.

If you are among those who feel some kind of pressure to avoid abortion or have some pre-existing mental health issues, it would be good to share your concerns with the doctors. Quite often, timely mental health counseling may significantly help reduce the risk of post-abortion depression.

To conclude, depression is among the severe consequences of abortion. Fortunately, studies suggest that such kinds of mental health issues are uncommon and occur only in some women with predisposing factors.

References

  1. Unintended Pregnancy | Unintended Pregnancy | Reproductive Health | CDC. Published July 20, 2021. Accessed August 22, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/unintendedpregnancy/index.htm
  2. Reardon DC. The abortion and mental health controversy: A comprehensive literature review of common ground agreements, disagreements, actionable recommendations, and research opportunities. SAGE Open Med. 2018;6:2050312118807624. doi:10.1177/2050312118807624
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