Understanding the relationship between mental health and abortion

There is no evidence that restricting abortion leads to poor mental health. Many states require healthcare professionals to inform you that abortion can lead to poor mental health. Some people believe that abortion can cause depression or suicide. These are all lies. Abortion does not cause mental disorders or their symptoms, according to decades of research.

Denying you an abortion can negatively impact your well-being.

The Effects of Abortion Care

The overwhelming majority of research suggests that abortion does not negatively affect your mental health.

Many reputable organizations, including:

  • American Psychological Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • Center for Reproductive Rights

Many people have heard that “post-abortion syndrome”, or “post-abortion anxiety syndrome”, is a condition in which you experience symptoms similar to post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) following an abortion. But there is no evidence from trusted sources to support this. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, or the International Classification of Diseases, does not recognize post-abortion symptoms. These manuals are used widely to diagnose and classify mental health conditions.

The turnaway study was a landmark analysis, advancing new standards in reproductive health. It gathered data over several years on women who sought abortions. The Turnaway Study compared the mental health of people who wanted an abortion with those who could not access one.

The Turnaway Study has revealed that:

  • Abortion does not lead to a worsened mental health outcome.
  • The participants reported improvements in their mental health five years after they sought abortion services, regardless of whether or not they were granted abortions.
  • Those who have had an abortion are no more likely than those denied one to feel suicidal, either immediately after the abortion or years later.
  • No one who has had an abortion is more likely to develop PTSD, whether it’s immediately following the abortion or years later.
  • An abortion does not lead to increased alcohol, tobacco, or other substance use.

A study examined the emotions people experienced over a five-year period. People report feeling relieved the most about their abortion. Very few people regret abortions. 98% of people who had an abortion felt they made the correct decision five years later.

Everyone feels differently after an abortion. Although most people feel good about their abortion, they may still have negative feelings. You can reach out to Exhale for non-judgmental and compassionate post-abortion counseling by calling 866-439-4255 or 617-749-294.

The consequences of circumnavigating restrictions to obtain abortion care

In many states, abortion is illegal. You may face restrictions in states that allow abortion, such as waiting periods. Researchers have found that waiting periods for abortions can be a financial and emotional burden on people, especially those from lower-income households or who live further away from the clinic.

Some states require pre-abortion counseling. In some states, healthcare providers are legally required to provide inaccurate or misleading information to encourage people not to have an abortion. There is also inaccurate information about the mental health effects of abortion. Researchers have also found that those who are stigmatized when seeking an abortion, whether or not they obtain one, are more likely to experience negative psychological effects years later.

Effects of not being able to access abortion care

According to a systematic review, overall, wanting abortion but not being able to access it leads to worse mental health outcomes. The review concluded that women who are denied abortions will likely suffer from poorer financial outcomes.

A 2016 report, Trusted Source, based on survey results collected over 60 years, examined the effects of unintended pregnancy. The majority of participants were over 50, and the majority of their pregnancies took place before abortion became legal. The study concluded that unintended pregnancies were strongly linked to poor mental health, especially depression, in later life.

A study by TrustedSource, using data from the Turnaway Study, revealed that people who denied abortions had:

  • More anxiety symptoms
  • lower self-esteem
  • lower life satisfaction

Research shows that people who have been denied abortions also tend to be more violent.

  • live in poverty.
  • has lower credit scores
  • Bankruptcies, evictions, and other problems
  • Stay with a violent spouse.
  • Raising children alone

A study from 2019 found that women who had been denied an abortion and then gave birth suffered worse health outcomes. The women reported having more chronic migraines and joint pain. The study of 2015 revealed that women with a higher risk of eclampsia or postpartum bleeding were found to be more susceptible.

In 2021, another 5-year study will be published that examines the emotional wellbeing of women who are denied abortions. Participants reported both positive and negative emotions after being denied abortions. However, their emotional state improved gradually during pregnancy and following childbirth. It’s possible that, even though abortion denial may cause mental distress over time, you can feel better.


Implications of pregnancy and parenting

You may feel a variety of emotions if you are denied an abortion. In general, the mental health of women who are denied abortions is worse. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will always have a mental illness or emotional problems.

The majority of studies above note that mental health is affected by your situation.

If you have:

  • Social support is limited or nonexistent.
  • Before seeking an abortion, you must have a mental condition and/or symptoms that indicate a mental condition.
  • You don’t feel fulfilled in your career or other areas of your life.
  • You don’t feel you have bonded enough with your newborn.
  • Financial stress

Your mental health may improve if you receive support. You can do this by talking to your loved ones or getting non-judgmental, empathetic counseling. You can find support by joining groups of people who are in the same situation as you, whether you have had an abortion, miscarried, or given birth.

Implications for children and adolescents

Children born to women who have had abortions and their children are better off. According to research, the children born of women who refused abortions tend to be less developed than those who have had abortions.

A five-year study A trusted source compared the well-being of children born after a person had an abortion with that of subsequent children. The study found that children with index scores were more likely than other children to suffer from poor mother-child bonding and live in poverty.

Support and information about

Mental health and abortion are subjects rife with myths. Research shows that abortions do not lead to poor mental health, but denial of an abortion can. If you are in need of emotional support, whether you have had an abortion or been denied one, or if you are contemplating abortion, you should do so. You deserve non-judgmental, empathetic support, no matter what your feelings are—whether they’re relief, sadness, or guilt.

Find post-abortion support here:

  • All-Options
  • Connect and breathe.
  • Exhale

Try contacting Planned Parenthood. They offer mental health services. They may also be able to refer you to a local counseling service.

These Healthline articles might also be useful:

  • What to Expect After an Abortion
  • How to Safely Manage an Abortion at Home
  • Access to Abortion in Every State
  • What is post-abortion syndrome all about?

Credit: The Web Health & Drugs Discussion Forum

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