After-Abortion Stress: Signs & Symptoms

Abortion is meant to solve a problem. Even so, it sometimes leaves another unexpected group of problems behind. Many women report feeling intense guilt and regret after an abortion experience, even when they report feeling it was the right decision (1). For most, the intensity of pain recedes, but the thoughts and feelings may linger. Women of all ages, from eighteen to eighty, have come to Clearway for support in processing their grief. It can affect any area of a woman’s life, from relationships to her own self-worth. Women who have gone through our healing groups report feeling a lightness and freedom from a burden they didn’t even realize they had been carrying.
After a pregnancy termination, the feelings that many women experience often take them by surprise. This is especially true in cases when they received no preparation for possible feelings of grief related to their abortion (2). Cultural abortion narratives often focus on minimizing or de-legitimizing any emotional pain following an abortion experience, which results in a stigmatization of after-abortion pain for those who experience it (3). This approach can, inadvertently, drive people into deeper secrecy and shame. It can also lead to the suppression of such feelings. Sara West and Carol Porter of the Institute of Reproductive Grief describe this Disenfranchised Grief as a loss which is treated as a “non-event.”

Compassionate, skilled care involves a nuanced and open approach to the topic of abortion. To care for those with abortion in their history, clinicians must acknowledge the unique issues which compel women to consider abortion. These include but are not limited to; cultural pressures, abuse/control in the relationship, family pressures, employer pressures, and financial pressures.

Written by Amy G., L.I.C.S.W.

How do I know if I need help?

Those with abortion(s) in their history are at risk of a significant increase in emotional or mental health problems (4). This may or may not be your experience. If you feel your abortion is affecting you, use the below self-assessment to help you determine if you’d like to seek support for processing your abortion experience.

Self-Assessment Test

Rate each statement on a scale of 0-3 based on how true it is for you.

(0-not at all true, 1-slightly true, 2-moderately true, 3-true)

  1. I have periods of explosive anger that seem to come from nowhere.
  2. I have periods of panic or anxiety that I can’t explain.
  3. I don’t talk about my abortion(s) and/or I worry about what people would think of me if they knew about my abortion(s).
  4. I feel guilt and/or shame when I think about my abortion(s).
  5. I worry that something bad will happen to my children and/or something will be wrong with my future children because I had an abortion(s).
  6. I try to be a “perfect mother” to my children and/or I don’t think I’m a good mother.
  7. I’ve had trouble feeling emotionally close to others.
  8. I feel that in some ways I’m less of a woman or I don’t fit in with other women.
  9. I feel like I’ll never be able to forgive myself because of the abortion(s).
  10. I try to avoid babies or pregnant women.

Add up your score. If your score is 15 or higher, you may want to consider talking to someone about your abortion.

If you would like to know more about common symptoms among those who have experienced abortion, call us today at 508-501-7051. Schedule a virtual or in-clinic appointment to meet with the leader of our after-abortion care programs to learn more. (No commitment to a group class or retreat required.)

Women who have gone through the after-abortion healing program we offer have expressed feelings such as...

“I was loved throughout the program. I was able to voice my experience without judgement. I had gotten very depressed and unable to find forgiveness for myself. I am forgiven and I will see my child someday: I am sure of this.”

"This program was real work, intense and often difficult, but none of it was as difficult as living under the crushing weight that I hadn't even realized I was carrying."

“This study was an amazing experience. I was with other women who had experienced abortion, some multiple times. In this class, all of us had our abortions 30 to 50 years ago. Imagine: we all carried this for decades, and most of us had kept it to ourselves! I won’t say it wasn’t a journey. It was hard, there were tears, there were memories brought to mind that I buried for years, and it was painful, yet freeing. I realized joy and relief.”

“Through the program, I felt like I got to put down a ton of bricks I had been carrying for three decades.”

“With over twenty years having gone by since my abortion, I did not want to dig up the past or revisit that time of my life in any depth. It was only when I came to a section that went over symptoms of post-abortive issues women have that I realized I was checking off several of these symptoms.”

“I went through with the abortion, and roughly 6 months later my boyfriend broke up with me. That is when I started struggling with anxiety.”

“I struggled to feel joy, or any real expression of feelings (other than anger), and I could not understand why. Surprisingly, I began tracing many current problems back to my abortion. The healing that needed to take place could only happen when I was ready to face the pain of my past.”


  1. Rocca CH, Kimport K, Roberts SC, Gould H, Neuhaus J, Foster DG. Decision Rightness and Emotional Responses to Abortion in the United States: A Longitudinal Study. PLoS One. 2015 Jul 8;10(7):e0128832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128832. PMID: 26154386; PMCID: PMC4496083.
  2. Journal of Psychiatric Research; October, 2008; Induced abortion and anxiety, mood and substance disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey; Coleman, Coyle, Shuping, Rue
  3. Journal of Medical Ethics; August 28, 2012; Abortion and Regret; Greasley, K.
  4. NIH: National Library of Medicine, Relationship between induced abortion and the incidence of depression, anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, and somatoform disorder in Germany; July, 2019, Jacob, L., Kostev, K. Gerhard, C. Kalder, M.
  5. When Grief Is Complicated, 2017, Doka, K. & Tucci, A.; Hospice Foundation of America
  6. Peace Psychology Perspectives on Abortion, 2016, MacNair, R.

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