Does post-abortion stress syndrome exist?
There’s a debate within the medical community about whether post-abortion stress syndrome (PASS) exists; however, whatever a medical professional’s stance may be, the emotional symptoms that many women experience after an abortion has to be acknowledged.
Many women who have unintended pregnancies and make a choice to terminate aren’t prepared for the emotions they may feel post-abortion. From the get-go, we want you to know that we are here for you.
According to an article which discusses the psychological risks of having an abortion, ‘a woman who has just had an abortion is often under enormous pressure – whether from her partner, her family and friends [and] to act as if nothing has happened.’ This is an unfair expectation which can cause extreme pressure.
Objective studies have shown that women who are okay with having an abortion are more likely to talk about their experience than women who are ashamed and regretful.
According to an article published by Psychology Today, the symptoms of PASS may include
- Guilt: Experiencing guilt does not imply that you made a mistake or “violated your own moral code,” as some pro-lifers would imply. However, feelings around having an abortion may be complex and have to take into account fear of what others might think.
- Anxiety: General anxiety is a common symptom of PTSD—in the case of PASS, there might be particular anxiety over fertility issues and the ability to get pregnant again.
- Depression: Again, common symptoms of PTSD.
- Flashbacks: Abortion is surgery, and in most cases, it’s a surgery that happens while the patient is fully conscious. This can be a distressing experience.
- Suicidal thoughts: In extreme cases, the PTSD that results from a controversial abortion could lead to suicidal thoughts or tendencies and would require immediate treatment. It’s important to note that this is not a common or expected symptom of PASS, but as with any form of PTSD, it is possible.
Treatment for post-abortion stress syndrome
It’s recommended that you make an appointment with a professional counsellor specialising in post-abortion recovery to discuss any emotions you may be feeling – keeping your emotions bottled up will cause them to become worse. Don’t feel shy to express precisely how you feel.
He/she will help you come to terms with your feelings and provide ways that can assist in gaining closure to your after-abortion experience.
It’s possible that medical professionals may never reach a consensus about the existence or non-existence of PASS; however, the truth is that after an abortion you may experience a variety of emotions – and it’s something that you don’t need to feel embarrassed about at all. You have the right to non-judgemental support and never have to feel alone.
For more information about finding an accredited counsellor to help you deal with the symptoms of PASS, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)
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