Healing the Pain of Abortion. Finding the Path to Peace and Reconciliation.
- Post-Abortion Counseling
For help or more information, please contact:
Mary Ann Schwab
Project Rachel Coordinator
There is a wide variety of symptoms of abortion's aftermath, ranging from mild grief to profound reactions which may include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is the people working in the field of bereavement who have written about the need to resolve abortion losses and recognize that this disenfranchised loss surfaces during subsequent losses. Many of the symptoms discussed are symptoms common to complicated mourning and to trauma reactions. Project Rachel can help. The manifestations of abortion's aftermath are:
- Low self-esteem
- A sense of alienation from self, friends and others
- Isolation, self-imposed actions to avoid sharing the abortion experience with others
- Anger, though this is often buried deeply. Depression and anger are flip sides of the same experience
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nightmares/"baby dreams"--these may take the form of some menacing creature attacking children, or of, as a woman described them, "dead dolls, dismembered babies, or babies in distress that can't be reached."
- Auditory hallucinations of a baby crying
- Flashbacks of the abortion experience that are triggered by such things as vacuum cleaners, which are reminders of the suction equipment; music or ‘Muzak’ that was playing during the procedure; elevators which lead up to the clinic; or cookies served after the procedure.
- Sleep disorders
- Suicidal thoughts--in a study done in Ohio by Suicide Anonymous Hotline over a 36-month period, of the 4000 women who called, 1800 had previously had abortions.
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Relationship problems--70% of romantic relationships end after an abortion. Some women also distance themselves from their nuclear family and from their closest friends.
- Intimacy problems--women often shy away from intimate relationships with males for fear of having to reveal things about herself, including her abortion.
- Physical pain--women may describe pain such as abdominal pain, menstrual pain, or back pain. This could be organic pain caused be complications from the abortion or it could be psychosomatic pain.
- Physical numbness
- Difficulties in subsequent labor and delivery, such as labors that start and stop or that fail to progress resulting in Cesareans.
- Acute reaction may involve fascination with or obsession with pregnancy that may result in bizarre short term acting-out behavior.
- Avoidance behavior centered on children, pregnancy, and abortion.
- Eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunction or promiscuity
- Atonement pregnancy--feeling compelled to become pregnant again, often within one year following the abortion.
- Phantom pregnancy--going to physicians' offices, crisis pregnancy centers, and emergency rooms believing she is pregnant.
- Atonement marriage—marriage between partners in an abortion in an attempt to save the relationship after the abortion
- Abusive relationships--in some cases, the woman is the abusive party; in other cases, she is the abused party
- Anniversary reactions
- Over-compensation in a career--especially true for a woman who chooses the abortion in order to finish college or complete her career goals
- Child abuse--women may have inappropriate coping mechanisms for dealing with frustration until the grief issue is resolved. The abuse may be emotional in terms of distancing, or actual physical striking out against a subsequent child. Women sometimes share that their "perfect child" was the one they aborted, and now they are left with this one.
- Increased bitterness toward men--this manifests itself in terms of being able to really trust men in the future.
National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing: Provides networking of researchers and psycho-therapeutic professionals working in the field within the U.S. and abroad.
There Is Hope After Abortion: It's normal to grieve a pregnancy loss, including the loss of a child by abortion. It can form a hole in one's heart, a hole so deep that sometimes it seems nothing can fill the emptiness.
Rachel's Vineyard: Retreats that create a safe place to renew, rebuild and redeem hearts broken by abortion. Weekend retreats offer you a supportive, confidential and non-judgmental environment where women and men can express, release and reconcile painful post-abortive emotions to begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.
National Silent No More Awareness Campaign: This website can help if you or someone you know is hurting after an abortion. You are not alone!