Post Abortion Stress Syndrome

Is there such a condition as post abortion stress syndrome? I’ve searched for it but all I’ve found is a load of partisan bullshit on both sides. Can anyone give me the Straight Dope?

This seems fairly unbiased.

Here’s the Scandinavian (Danish) study.

So, it really isn’t that definitive a study–they really only surveyed 15 women, not 76 women.

There are a number of other studies cited and summarized on this website.

I haven’t really studied these, but from a cursory reading of them, it sounds like the answer to the OP is, “No, not really. There’s no real ‘syndrome’ as such. Whether a woman is depressed following an abortion depends on so many other things.”

Wether its got such a nice name or not, I’m absolutely sure there is such a condition. IANAW (I am not a woman), but it’s blindingly obvious that most women who have abortions do realize that they are ending a life, the abortion itself may also bring about memories and regrets about waht caused the pregnancy to begin with. About a year or so before I was concieved, my mother had a miscarriage and from what I can pick up that really messed with her head for some time.

I don’t know if this affects my answer, and I don’t want to start a GD but I am in favor of legalized abortions

Well, in General Questions, what we go by is “data”, not “opinion”, and it looks to me like there’s no “data” yet that shows that there’s an actual syndrome called “post abortion stress disorder”, the way there’s a syndrome called “post traumatic stress disorder”. Some women are depressed after an abortion. Some women are also depressed after a hysterectomy. Some women are depressed after gall bladder surgery.

But the question is, “Does the abortion cause the depression?” the same way the question is, “Does the hysterectomy cause the depression”? So far, I don’t see any medical evidence that having an abortion automatically causes depression. The studies cited in the link seemed to be saying that many, if not most women cope with having had an abortion perfectly well, with no depression.

You are of course perfectly welcome to go over to Great Debates and start a thread debating the existence or non-existence of “post abortion stress syndrome”. Or a thread debating legalized abortions.

I remember this from early in C. Everett Koop’s tenure as Surgeon General: The Reagan administration picked him in part for his conservative values, and they requested he study and report on the issue of abortion’s effects on women. They were quite upset when after finishing his review of available literature, Koop refused to say that there was evidence that abortion led to significant negative effects for women. Despite his personal opinions, he felt there was no statistically significant evidence that it did, and he refused to compromise his scientific standards. I respected him for that.

Qadgop, MD

Some women find abortion very stressful. Of course, abortion is not always an elective procedure and miscarriages can fall into categories including missed abortions, complete abortions, incomplete abortions, etc.

Do you need a fancy name for this? In the cases where it happens, it seems to be like a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Our teaching, oddly enough, was that women who deliver stillbirths vaginally and get a chance to hold the fetus often do better psychologically then women who don’t for late abortions.

Reagan et al hoped to dictate elective abortions lead to psychiatric disease, which is hard to accept both medically and morally is an imposition on the right of women to decide what they want to do with their bodies, so sayeth I.

I too thought it might be related to Post-Partum Depression. Of course, an abortion is NOT an easy decision to make, and I think I can say with confidence that NO ONE loves abortion.

I don’t have scientific evidence to add here, but I did want to addressd Nevarmore’s observation. While it is likely that an elective abortion is not something that most women take lightly, you must also remember that intermingled with the loss is a sense of relief. That may do much to balance the negative feelings. I’ve heard the same thing from women who have miscarried early in an ill-timed pregnancy. While they certainly feel the loss, they also have relief from the worrying they were doing. There is ambivalence.

In the case of an abortion sought out after careful consideration, I would think that the rational thought-process she went through prior to the procedure would help her to deal with the negative feelings that arise afterwards.

I didn’t have any stress… all I felt was relief.

While I am strongly pro-life, I am unaware of any reputable and complete study that suggests a “syndrome” following abortions. As Duck Duck Goose suggests, there’s no question that some women become depressed following an abortion, but this, alone, does not a syndrome make. I say this after spending some time scouring sources in search of evidence in favor of such a thing. There are plenty of claims, but I found a great deal of flawed methodology and wishful-thinking analysis instead of solid, statistical work.

I believe there are many considerations against deciding to abort an unborn child, but a “Post Abortion Stress Syndrome” risk is unlikely to be one of them.

  • Rick

Here is a thread that has some relevance to this subject:

Do most people who have an abortion regret it?

I am a woman, but I have not had an abortion.

I do have friends who have had them, though, and all I can say for sure is that no two abortions are alike. One friend with no desire for children (she was conscientious about birth control, but no method is 100% effective) has had no regrets. I knew a woman with severe depression who had an abortion and was depressed afterwards - but since she was depressed before I don’t think you can blame the abortion. I know someone who very much wanted a child, found out the baby was grieviously deformed around month 4 (apparently no chance of survival after birth), and went through full grief and mourning - but that seemed to be more over the deformity of a wanted child than the abortion procedure itself. I know a woman who had an abortion then 5 years later became a born-again conservative Christian, at which point she experienced distress over her past “murder”, but I think that was in part because her creepy husband used to rub it in her face that she was a “baby-killer”.

So, I don’t think abortion in and of itself is going to “traumatize” a woman anymore than actually having a baby would. Some women are overjoyed to have children, some women regret having them. From my own completely unscientific experience of hearing friends talk about their experience, I’d say the usual emotion is relief. There might be some regret, but it’s more regret at the circumstances leading up to the decision to abort rather than the procedure itself. Even then, no one thinks it’s a wonderful thing, just better than the alternatives they had at the time.

Warning - anecdotal.

I had an early termination years ago - the diaphragm failed. Was I distressed? Not really, but it’s not a thing I would pick over efficient contraception. Most of the transient distress I felt was because the nursing staff treated me like a criminal. Didn’t even think about it till we got pregnant intentionally many years later and I had to provide a medical history to the OB/GYN.

That second pregnancy resulted in a second trimester termination after a CVS. (The genetics testing laboratory glitched and didn’t report to my doctor or me that the foetus was Down’s syndrome, and everyone was coasting on the “Don’t worry, if you don’t hear it means everything is OK. If there’s a problem they’ll tell you” line.) Was I distressed? There are no words that can be used in this forum to answer that. Though I did use many of them in my communications with the laboratory.

The doc who did the second termination does most of the later terminations for that hospital. I asked him at the time about women’s reactions, because mine were so different for the two occasions. He said that for most of his patients, women who did not want to be pregnant, their main reaction at the time, and in follow-ups, was relief. Women like me who wanted to be pregnant grieved, not because the foetus was malformed, but for the loss of the child they wanted.

And I am now the happy parent of a 4 year old, much loved, much wanted, girl.

Pregnancy can bring about all sorts of stress disorders:

 post-partum depression
 post-abortion depression
 post-adoption depression
 post-miscarriage depression

As an earlier poster said, no two abortions are alike; likewise, no two pregnancies are alike even for the same woman.