An unexpected pregnancy can make your life challenging. That's why it doesn't come as a surprise that many women choose to have an abortion. There are several and complex factors why American women choose to have an abortion, but these are the most common reasons:
- Financial reasons (40%)
- Timing (36%)
- Partner-related reasons (31%)
- Prioritizing other children (29%)
- Other reasons (64%)
While some women cited only one cause contributing to their decision to have an abortion, others cited several. Women seek abortion for reasons connected to their circumstances, such as their socioeconomic status, age, health, and marital status.
Women aged 20–24 have the greatest abortion rate and the highest proportion of abortions (34%) of all age groups studied. With 22.8 per 1,000, women aged 25–29 had the second-highest rate. Adolescents aged 15–19 accounted for only 12% of all abortions in 2014.
Despite the social risks and legal restrictions on getting an abortion, these numbers are admirable. The stigma surrounding abortion impacts women and girls, abortion providers, and pro-abortion activists. Even when abortion is legal, stigma is a known cause of maternal morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion.
Negative judgments against abortion make it difficult for women to be open about their personal experiences with abortion. Getting an abortion can feel like an isolating experience, and this is why many women reach out to post-abortion counseling as a result.
Do I Need Counseling After an Abortion?
An abortion is the medical termination of a pregnancy and is considered one of the most controversial medical procedures. Some studies even perceive the procedure as rather traumatic. The body will undergo a physical readjustment phase post-procedure, including cramping, vaginal bleeding, hormonal changes, and overall exhaustion. These symptoms are typical and mean that the body is recovering from the procedure.
More than the physical side effects after having an abortion, emotional side effects are just as normal to occur. Deciding to get an abortion is rarely the woman's preferred choice, but one thing’s for sure: they can have conflicting emotions due to the procedure itself and the stigma surrounding it. This stigma can cause them feelings of regret, shame, and guilt.
Abortion can also have clinical psychological effects on women who undergo it. A study showed that doing so can lead to the development of mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other interpersonal relations problems. The need to seek psychological support usually occurs a long time after the procedure.
Another study suggested that those who have mental health problems before their pregnancy are at a higher risk of experiencing negative emotions after abortion.
As a result, identifying high-risk women vulnerable to psychological complications is necessary, and seeking help from a professional through post-abortion counseling can be the first step.
Thinking of Taking Your First Step?Try Online Therapy
How Can Post-Abortion Counseling Help?
Counseling, in general, is an effective way of helping people navigate challenging life situations. It offers people the opportunity to learn about themselves, confront their deeply-rooted emotions, and identify specific thought patterns that can be hindering their growth. Counseling enables people to live healthy and meaningful lives.
Post-abortion counseling is just like a typical counseling session but is tailor-made to help women who had an abortion. Women who had an abortion tend to question themselves about their decision on terminating their pregnancy. They feel as if they do not have the right to grieve because it was a conscious choice on their end.
In a post-abortion counseling session, the therapist will be right there with the client to help them process these emotions and learn practical ways to deal with them. Unprocessed emotions can feel like a burden they've been carrying and burying deep inside themselves without sharing with anybody for a long time. A good therapist will give you a space free of judgment so that you can slowly untangle and reflect on those emotions.
A therapist specializing in post-abortion counseling will have previous experience counseling couples and a good background in sexual psychology and contraceptives to help further recognize why certain emotions manifest.
Another purpose of post-abortion counseling is to assist clients with controlling future fertility. Doing so will diminish the likelihood of having another abortion due to unprepared or unwanted pregnancy.
Let's go over some of the possible therapeutic approaches applicable for post-abortion counseling.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
The most widely used counseling approach is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a psychological treatment that has proven its efficiency in treating many conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and other severe mental illnesses. This counseling approach is a problem-oriented strategy that focuses on solving the existing problems.
Talking through negative thoughts and dealing with emotions related to the abortion experience can help people get out of the pattern and move forward. CBT follows an ABC model, which stands for activating event, belief, and consequence.
Here's an example:
- Activating event (A) – I became pregnant
- Belief (B) – I shouldn't have had unprotected sex if I wasn't ready to be a mother
- Consequence (C) – Feeling guilty and having low self-esteem due to the belief
By exploring these thought patterns and becoming more aware of how they manifest, clients can evaluate the evidence for their thoughts and start making changes. CBT uses different techniques, including deep-breathing exercises, journaling, and identifying thought patterns, just to name a few.
If you're finding it hard to show yourself compassion due to your decision to have an abortion, compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is another counseling approach that helps create a positive emotional response for people dealing with low self-worth. It encourages people to be compassionate towards themselves and others. The question of how to forgive oneself is answered only by going through the experience of abortion, and CFT is effective in helping women process this.
We believe that having negative thoughts or feelings is terrible or wrong. Since we choose to think this way, we brand ourselves as bad people, but the truth is that no one decides to feel this way. Our brains have evolved to react, and they don't always respond positively.
CFT is different from CBT in that it draws from a range of disciplines, like Buddhism, biology, and evolutionary psychology. Appreciation exercises, mindfulness, and compassion-focused imagery exercises are some of the techniques used in CFT.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a time-limited treatment that aims to work on established interpersonal issues. Lasting between 12 to 16 weeks, it focuses on the behaviors and interactions with your family and friends and how these relationships can affect your mental health. It cultivates communication and interpersonal skills, leading to meaningful relationships and improved mental health.
This type of counseling approach can be beneficial for post-abortion cases in determining the reason behind the unwanted pregnancy in the first place. As mentioned earlier, roughly 31% choose to have an abortion due to partner-related reasons. An interpersonal therapist can work through the relationship problems of the client, which can potentially decrease the likelihood of resorting to abortion again in the future.
IPT techniques include identifying emotions, expressing emotions, and dealing with past issues.
What About Post-Abortion Counseling Online?
Seeking help through counseling can be intimidating, especially since abortion issues are heavily stigmatized. Most people are afraid of not knowing what to say to their therapist or what will happen during the counseling session. Therefore, they hesitate to get treatment. Some of these concerns can be alleviated by online therapy.
Several studies have demonstrated that online therapy can help people with anxiety and depression symptoms, which can also mean that it’s just as effective in treating mental health concerns associated with abortion.
It's no surprise that online counseling is becoming more popular than in-person counseling year after year for many reasons. It is more convenient, less expensive, and more comfortable for people who prefer online communication. You can also choose from a variety of therapists who specialize in the mental health issue you're having.
Overall, there is not much difference between online and in-person therapy except for the means of communication. The beauty of online counseling is that it does not discriminate against any therapeutic approaches. Therapy after abortion can be the key to helping you recover from the burden of post-abortion distress.
It might take a while before the stigma surrounding abortion goes away, but what matters is that you are happy with your decision. After all, continuing with an unwanted pregnancy may create more psychological damage to you than having an abortion.
Having an abortion can impact one's mental health in many ways, but you shouldn't go through the suffering alone. The experience can evoke a range of both positive and negative emotions. It can make you feel tempted to withdraw from everyone.
However, you should know that you have family and friends willing to connect and listen to you. And if this isn't an option available for you, know that we offer post-abortion counseling services here at DoMental.