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emotional aspects of abortion

Abortion occurs when a pregnancy is ended before 20 weeks. When a woman decides to end her pregnancy for personal or health-related reasons, she may choose an elective medical abortion or an elective surgical abortion.

What is the information for this topic? 
Research findings suggest that a woman who choose to have an abortion usually has at least 3 reasons for the decision. The following are common reasons:
  • She is not ready for the changes that motherhood would bring. These include changes affecting a job, further education, or the achievement of life goals.
  • She cannot afford to care for a child.
  • She does not want to be a single parent.
  • She does not feel prepared or mature enough for the responsibility of parenthood.
  • She does not want anyone to know that she has been sexually active or that she is pregnant.
  • She does not want more children.
  • Her partner or parent wants her to have an abortion.
  • She or the embryo or foetus has a health problem.
  • Her pregnancy is the result of incest or rape.
Studies indicate that most women experience a mixture of feelings after an abortion. Most women feel relief. They may also feel sadness, guilt, regret, or anger for a short time after the abortion. Abrupt changes in hormone levels caused by abortion might affect a woman's sense of well-being. There can be concerns related to the social burdens of having had an abortion.

Sometimes more serious emotional reactions occur after an abortion, including a type of depression that is similar to postpartum depression. These serious emotional problems are rare and occur far less commonly than severe emotional problems after childbirth. Severe emotional reactions following an abortion tend to affect women who wanted the pregnancy but were at risk in terms of their health if they continued to full-term delivery. Problems in a relationship or traumatic life events can lead to the decision to have an abortion. These can cause more complex emotional reactions.

Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 27/02/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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