Asking For A Friend: How to look after yourself following an abortion2023-02-16
Asking For A Friend is the series where we answer the questions that you’ve always wanted to ask.
Although it has been legal to get an abortion in England for more than 50 years, it’s still an extremely taboo topic.
People talk about the politics of abortion – with activism often focused on ensuring healthcare access and debunking myths – but less is said about the personal nature of a termination.
It’s important to note that the majority of people feel relieved following an abortion, and that they made the right decision under the circumstances. In fact, research has shown that 95% of women do not regret their decision.
But, abortion isn’t always an easy decision and, as Michael Campbell, MSI Reproductive Choices’ UK Lead Counsellor, explains, it’s not unusual to feel sad or guilty for a little while.
‘It is common for people to experience a wide range of emotions and everyone’s experience is unique,’ he tells Metro.co.uk. ‘There is no right or wrong way to feel.’
For example, he says, some people may feel grief for what could have been while others might feel guilt – either for the decision they’ve made, or for the fact they don’t feel bad.
But these feelings are often a product of the stigma surrounding abortion healthcare.
‘These feelings of shame or guilt are often caused by abortion stigma and the fear of being judged, which can make it harder for people to get care or ask for support,’ he explains.
On top of that, there’s the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy.
‘Pregnancy is associated with many hormonal changes and after an abortion it can take a few weeks for the hormones to settle down,’ Michael explains.
‘This can leave people feeling more emotional.’
Clearly, the period following an abortion can be confusing, so it’s important to take care of yourself while taking stock of how you feel.
How to look after your mental health following an abortion
Be kind to yourself
As Cath, a lead abortion counsellor at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) says, being kind to yourself after an abortion is of the utmost importance.
‘For most people facing this decision it is about trying to work out how to be the best parent and the best person you can be in a difficult situation,’ she says.
‘Afford yourself the compassion that you would feel for a friend or loved one.’
Write yourself a letter
If you’re struggling with your decision to terminate your pregnancy but know that it’s for the best, Cath suggests writing a letter to yourself explaining why you’ve made the decision, before you have the procedure.
‘Keep this letter safe, and if you find yourself struggling afterwards then give it a read,’ she says.
‘Remember this how you felt at the time when you were actually having to make the decision.
‘It is a reminder why you took the steps you did.’
Give yourself space to mourn
‘Deciding to have an abortion is mainly due to a need not a want,’ says Cath.
This means that you’re bound to have some strong feelings after making such a difficult choice.
‘Try not to deny yourself the right to feel sad and mourn the loss of the pregnancy because you see it as something you chose to end,’ Cath adds..
Talk through your feelings
It might take a while for you to work out how you truly feel following a termination.
There will be a lot to deal with practically, and some of those emotions may not surface until afterwards.
Talking your feelings through with someone can be a good way to pinpoint how you’re feeling.
‘If it does not feel comfortable to discuss your feelings around the abortion with someone in your sphere, think about reaching out to another source of support, whether that’s your GP or the organisation which provided your abortion,’ Cath says.
Know it’s normal to feel fine
Finally, you may not experience any life changing emotions following an abortion — and that’s perfectly normal.
‘Please know that it is absolutely fine to feel fine after an abortion,’ says Cath.
‘This is your right. For some women, it is a difficult process, but for others it is not.
‘Your feelings are valid.’
MSI offers free counselling for anyone who would like to talk either before or after their abortion. Call them at any time to arrange an appointment with a counsellor on 0345 300 8090.
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