How will having an abortion impact my mental health?

Mental Health Reproductive Health

A: While it is perfectly natural to experience some mixed emotions and even some sadness and anxiety after having an abortion, the research shows that the vast majority of people who get abortions feel satisfied with their decision and do not regret the choice.

The best data we have on this issue is from something called the Turnaway Study, which compared women who received an abortion to those who were turned away. The Turnaway Study was the first study in this area to use a proper control group. Previous studies of the emotional impacts of abortion have been flawed. Most have compared women having abortions with those who were happily pregnant and gave birth. These are of course very different circumstances! Methodology matters!

Over 50 scientific papers have been published based on the Turnaway Study. In general, this research has found that anxiety, stress, and loss of self-esteem are more common among women denied an abortion than among women who had abortions.

A 2020 study that used Turnaway Study data of almost 700 women who got abortions between 2008 and 2010 found most women did not have negative emotions surrounding the decision up to 5 years later. High proportions of women continued to feel that getting the abortion was the right decision years later. At one week after the abortion, over half of the women surveyed felt mostly positive emotions and this percentage increased over the first two years, plateauing shortly after that. By five years post-abortion, 84% of the women reported positive or no emotions whatsoever about the decision. The most common emotion surrounding the experience and even several years later was relief.

About half of women in this study reported that the decision to have the abortion was a difficult decision and half reported that it was not particularly difficult. The difficulty of the decision was highly related to how much they perceived others in their community did or did not approve of abortions in general.

While the research does not suggest that the risk of mental health problems is increased by having an abortion, you should always pay attention to how you feel and get in touch with your provider if you think something is wrong.

Take care and be well,
Those Nerdy Girls

Further Reading:

2020 study on emotional health following abortions

Turnaway Study Description

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