When a woman finds herself faced with the reality of an unplanned pregnancy, she essentially faces a decision between three options—parenting, making an adoption plan, or terminating the pregnancy through abortion. Particularly for women who find themselves in crisis situations surrounding or resulting in the pregnancy, abortion is often the first consideration.
As someone who has counseled women in these situations for over 16 years, experience shows that a woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy often goes through a difficult process to reach that decision.
Stress factors surrounding the decision can include but are not limited to:
- Pressure to abort from her significant other or another family member
- The pregnancy may be the result of some type of trauma
- A toxic or unsafe environment
- Financial or economic instability
- Medical/psychological concerns
- Pressure from expectations of school or career
A combination of these or even any experience of one of them increases the stress and difficulty surrounding her decision. A woman’s basic understanding and perspective on the pregnancy and the subsequent decision made can impact the feelings and concerns after the abortion experience.
For example, the acceptance and acknowledgement of the reality of the existing pregnancy followed by the decision to terminate the pregnancy can have a lasting mental, emotional and physiological impact.
“I thought life would be the way it was before” was stated by a client I counseled who chose to terminate her pregnancy, but felt something was missing after the experience. She felt it was a grief she couldn’t share; it wasn’t a typical kind of grief. Other women who chose termination shared the emotional difficulty they underwent when Mother’s Day came around or in seeing pregnant women or babies.
One woman in particular commented on recognizing what would have been a 1st birthday if she had continued the pregnancy, where another looked for ways to compensate the loss of the pregnancy through the addition of other items and relationships in her life.
What Is PASS?
For some women, this can result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—which, in cases of abortion, is also known, as “PASS” or Post Abortion Stress Syndrome. As stated by Susanne Babbel, MFT, PHD. in an article in Psychology Today, PAS/PASS is the name given to the psychological aftereffects of abortion. Many mental health professionals agree that this can exhibit as PTSD symptoms and greatly influence the life of a woman who undergoes this experience.
While the pregnancy may have been terminated, the fact that the pregnancy existed and the reality that this decision was made will always be a part of her history; thus, any resulting emotional, psychological or physical impact should be addressed uniquely for each woman.
The American Psychological Association (APA) asserted in 2009, “it is important that women’s varied experiences of abortion be recognized, validated and understood”—a sentiment which should apply especially to those with a difficult abortion experience.
Some basic symptoms of PASS include:
- A loss of or detriment to the woman’s sense of “self”
- Feelings of shame especially regarding what others may think
- Feelings of depression, guilt, sadness, grief, regret
- Increased irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of isolation
- Flashbacks/reliving moments of the experience
All are common PTSD symptoms that have been reported by many woman who have had an abortion experience. Some or all of these emotions can be experienced even in cases where initial relief upon completion of the procedure is felt.
Additionally, a pregnancy loss also results hormonal changes that can lead to negative feelings as well.
It Is Healthy To Seek Professional Help
While not every woman will experience PASS after their abortion, those women that do may feel as if they cannot reach out for help, that their experience will be judged, or that their condition is not treatable.
If you are post-abortive and find yourself experiencing symptoms of PASS, especially if they persist, Don’t be afraid to seek counseling with a mental health professional.
PASS is treatable and a licensed, professional counselor will work with you to explore the possible role of medication, help you utilize-self care tools such as eating healthy, exercising, managing stress, andn getting enough sleep, and trusting your support system with your feelings and struggles.
There is help available if you are experiencing a difficult or complicated impact from your abortion experience. Finding that help can start by contacting the Masters level, Licensed professionals at Birthright St. Charles.
We provide all of our clients a judgment-free environment where they can feel safe both emotionally and physically. We take your privacy very seriously and will never give out your personal information to anyone, regardless of relationship, except with your explicit, written permission.
We are here ready to help, ready to hear your story and ready to care for your specific needs with judgement free counseling and support.