Aftercare: Mental and Psychological Self Care

What Are The Psychological Risks?

It is difficult to decipher whether the onset of mental illness occurs before the abortion procedure or after. Because the circumstances that lead up to an elective abortion vary from each patient, it takes a team of trained counselors to determine whether a patient is at risk for a psychological disorder. The types of mental illness that develops from having an abortion are panic attack, depression, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 4 out of 1000 women will be treated for mental illness before having a live birth. The onset of these mental disorders can lead to the patient causing harm to themselves.

Who To Talk To

The best approach to ending this cycle is by having the patient speak to a counselor before the abortion process starts. The Counselor will inform the patient about the different psychological and physical risks of having this medical procedure conducted. Usually, a brochure will be handed to the patient outlining the different options of counseling and coping strategies used to reduce the risk of falling into this category.

Coping Strategies

Some coping strategies are:

  1. Join a focus group: attend counseling sessions. Sharing in a friendly group about your experience can be very healing
  2. Reading: join a book club and read books on the subject educate and get yourself familiar with what you have experience. This will create self-empowerment.
  3. Hobbies: painting or going to a play can help you relate back to society.
  4. Exercise: biking, swimming, rock climbing, and jogging are ways to keep your mind and body fit.
  5. Nutrition: eating foods that are good and healthy for you is an effective approach to maintaining a healthy weight.
  6. Sleeping: sleeping for 8 hours a night will keep you focused throughout the day.
  7. Friendships: hanging out with your friends and building a strong social network is vital to maintaining a healthy mental status.
  8. Time To Your Self: treating your self to a pedicure or an outing is a good way to relax.
  9. Meditate: combining yoga and breathing meditation is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress in your life.

Mental Illness

There is no solid evidence or study that statements that abortion leads to mental illness. It is found that some of the symptoms and mental disorders are present before the procedure is implemented. Dr. Priscilla Colman's study suggests that women are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness after having a live birth.

The purpose of the study was to provide data on the association of abortion history and panic attacks, mood, and substance abuse disorders. Abortion was found to be linked to social problems and showed a correlation of less than 4.3 percent relationship to panic attacks, mood, and substance abuse disorders. In order to address this issue, more research is needed in the area of mental illness diagnosis and its link to elective abortion.

The Big Picture

For those who would like to look at the issue from a broader perspective consider the following quote:

“Questions of life and death inevitably bring up the issue of abortion.  For some women, a commitment to serve the life-force might make abortion impossible.  For others, an abortion might be the highly ethical choice not to bring forth a child that cannot, for whatever reason, be wholeheartedly loved and cared for.  For a child is given life not just by its physical birth, but through relationships with loving, caring, human beings.  If those relationships cannot be assured, then the newborn is given only half a life, a precarious, starved existence.

But abortion is not truly an issue of right-to-life versus right-to choice.  To maintain the right of every egg and sperm to reproduce blindly is like maintaining the right of every cockroach and flea to populate the world endlessly.  The question at stake is actually the right-to-coerce.  Only our assumption that some people have the right to exercise power over others allows us to even consider taking the choice away from the woman whose self and body and future are at stake.

For human life to be rich, joyful, loving, it must be the freely given gift of the Mother – through the human mother.  To bear new life is a heavy responsibility, requiring a deep commitment, one that no one can force on another.  To coerce a woman by force, or fear, or guilt, or law, or economic pressure to bear an unwanted child is immoral.  It denies her right to exercise her own sacred will and conscience, robs her of her humanity, and dishonors the Goddess manifest in her being.  It is the responsibility of an ethical society not to force every fetus conceived to be brought to term, but to provide support and resources so that every child born can be fed and sheltered, loved, nurtured, and protected.

Nor is death an absolute to be feared.  Death, too, is part of the moving, changing process we call life, part of the cycle.  For the stories of immanence do not end with a bang – or even a whimper – they are circular, they are stories about the way the moon wanes and becomes dark, only to wax again.  About how the sun dies at the Winter Solstice and is reborn as the year is newly born.  The Goddess is Crone and Reaper as well as Mother; the God is the grain that is cut down as well as the seed that is sown.  But the harvest, the reaping of herbs – or of any rewards, returns, profits – must be practiced with respect for the balance of life and its continuation in the richest and most diverse forms.  The animal herds are culled, not obliterated.  When herbs are cut only a few are taken from each separate clump so that they may grow back in future years.  Human communities must limit their numbers and their lifestyles to what the land can support without straining resources or displacing other species.

Death, in fact, becomes a source of power-from-within – for only when we acknowledge the ultimate limits both of our power and our responsibility can we be free to bring power forth.  We can act freely only when we recognize that we are neither powerless nor omnipotent; that our active will, strong as it may be, is tempered by the activity of other wills, that our needs and desires must be balanced with those of others.”

Laughter is still the best Medicine

Last but not least, is humor. While it is natural to feel sad after ending a pregnancy, laughter is a great coping mechanism. Many workers who deal with trauma on a regular basis use humor to deal with the stress so they can continue on. We would recommend the same after a miscarriage.


- Starhawk “Dreaming the Dark (Magic, Sex & Politics” pgs. 39-40 Beacon Press Boston, MA © 1982

Corrigendum to “Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the national comorbidity survey” [Journal of Psychiatric Research 2009;43:770–776]. Coleman, P. K., Coyle K.T., Shupang, M., & Rue, V.E