The decision to have an abortion is often an emotional one for a woman. The woman’s personal history and social support play a large role in how she handles an abortion. If you are considering an abortion, it is important to understand how it may impact your mental health.
Having an abortion procedure is not linked to negative emotions.
Restricted access to safe and legal abortions, lack of knowledge on abortion, and worry over judgment from the community can negatively impact a woman’s mental health.
There are ways to be mentally healthy before an abortion.
Mental health may worsen after abortion, but that depends on a woman’s history of experiencing abuse, neglect, assault, or violence, and if she has any support.
What is the connection between mental health and abortion?
Abortion, in and of itself, is not linked to mental health issues. Research shows that having a wanted abortion does not increase one’s risk for depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. The impact depends strongly on the patient’s mental health before deciding to have an abortion.
State lawmakers have used the argument that abortion has negative effects on a woman’s mental health as a reason to regulate abortion. There is no evidence that women need to be warned about psychological harm from abortion, despite some laws requiring doctors to discuss this with patients. There can be short-term negative effects on a woman’s emotions connected with abortion.
These may be due to:
- Restricted access to safe and legal abortions.
- Lack of knowledge about abortion.
- Community judgment on abortion.
How to be mentally healthy before abortion
Maintaining mental health helps us in all aspects of life and especially when facing life decisions such as abortion. Life can be unpredictable, but working on your mental health days can help ensure calm and thoughtful decision-making. Some strategies to strengthen your mental health include.
Find a balance between negative and positive emotions and don’t keep thinking about bad things in the past or worrying too much about the future.
Think about or write down the good things in life. These can be things like a cup of tea, loved ones, or the kindness of a stranger.
Take care of your physical health by exercising, getting enough sleep, and practicing good nutrition.
Connect with others
Humans need social interaction, so make friends through a club, church, work, or volunteer activity. Friends can provide support, especially when making tough decisions.
Develop healthy coping skills
This is how you deal with tough times. Use healthy ways to fight stress such as asking for help, making a plan, and taking steps toward your decision.
This is practicing your focus on a word, object, or breathing. It can calm you so you handle stress better.
Practice relaxation techniques
Deep breathing or focusing on positive images in your mind can help to relax the body and strengthen mental health.
What does science say about mental health worsening after abortion?
In a study done by the University of California San Francisco, no evidence was seen that negative emotions were caused after an abortion procedure. On the contrary, 97% of women felt their decision was right over the 5 years after the abortion.
Relief was the most common emotion reported by women for the 5 years after the procedure. The indicator of whether a woman will have mental health struggles after abortion is her overall state of mental health leading up to the abortion. If you are someone who has a history of anxiety and depression, then those issues may continue surrounding an abortion decision. On the other hand, if you are stable mentally, have strong self-worth, and have confidence in your ability to make decisions, then this will most likely continue through your decision process with abortion. Whether or not a woman struggles with sadness, regret, anger, or guilt depends on her mental wellness, not on the procedure itself.
An abortion procedure does not necessarily lead to mental health harm for women. Negative emotions suffered from an abortion are because of social and personal stressors. If you know you are not in a good place mentally, seek help. Reaching out to your doctor is a great place to start. You can also call, text, or chat 988 if you are in emotional distress and trained counselors will listen, support, and offer any additional resources you may need.
- CDC. About Mental Health.
- NIH. Emotions and decision rightness over five years following an abortion: An examination of decision difficulty and abortion stigma.
- MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You. How to Improve Mental Health.
- 988lifeline. The Lifeline and 988.