In recent times, this topic has been hotly debated by both pro-life and pro-choice groups. The debate is around moral, ethical, and legal considerations. There are also a plethora of research findings and reviews on the subject. We will put back some objectivity in the discussion and refocus on this troubling issue. It is important to understand the subject that we are discussing that is abortion and mental health.
What is Abortion?
Abortion is the disruption of a pregnancy either by the extraction or the expulsion of the product of conception usually before the fetus is viable. The process can be spontaneous (of natural cause) and there are those that are induced. The distinction is critical even before the discussion of the association between abortion and mental health.
It has been estimated that every year there are about 44 million abortions across the globe and approximately half are not safely done resulting in some women dying.
Types of Abortion (and common reasons cited)
Spontaneous abortion also called miscarriage
The medical conditions that could cause a miscarriage are: chromosomal defects that result in the fetus not being viable; disease of the circulatory system; hormonal imbalance which does not sustain the pregnancy; infections; diabetes and kinds of abnormality of the womb.
The fierce debate is really about induced abortions. These abortions are either legally performed or illegally done. The common reasons given for the request are:
- Deformed fetus
- Mother’s socio-economic situation
- Threat to mother’s health
Mental States Pre-and-Post Abortion
The mental state of the woman before the pregnancy and abortion must be taken into consideration. There is a clear difference between planned and unplanned pregnancies as it speaks to the woman’s or adolescent’s state of mind and state of readiness for the pregnancy.
All women are at risk of mental issues depending on two key factors that is, whether the pregnancy was planned or not and the level of family and other support she may have. The common psychological effects are depression and anxiety. It is well known that depression if not resolved could progress into the more severe form which is clinical depression. Suicide is a rare but nevertheless an unfortunate complication of depression.
Advocates for Women’s Health
Whichever side of the debate you fall, pro-life or pro-choice, there is not enough said about improving women’s health services. Pregnancy is a condition that leaves women vulnerable mentally and physically. Once a pregnant woman interfaces with the healthcare system there needs to be a screening and assessment for not only her physical health but also she should be screened for mental conditions namely depression and anxiety, at the very least. Once it has been established that a woman is at risk of psychological illness, the appropriate referral should be made for further assessment and care.
Women and teenagers who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy need to have in addition to medical and mental assessment, an evaluation of their socio-economic standing. There should be appropriate social services to which they can be referred for help.
Tips for dealing with a feeling of despair pre/post abortion
- Speak to a healthcare provider about the distress
- Call a trusted family member or friend
- Contact social services
- Visit a woman’s center
- Call a Help-line
- Find a counselor or therapist
The critical advice is to find someone who can help you through this difficult period. There is no time and space for self-loathing or self-hate. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself.
A well-skilled therapist will take you through the stages of grief and loss. Denial and indifference are not healthy ways of working through the post-abortion experience.
In closing, all pregnant women and adolescents are at risk of mental crisis and therefore the healthcare system has to play a greater preventative role to protect and support our pregnant females.