HomeBlogConditionsTipsIdentifying and Managing Depression After Abortion

Identifying and Managing Depression After Abortion

Abortion can cause emotional and psychological impacts. Many women who seek an abortion already have a family and have made a decision themselves or with a partner to terminate their pregnancy for economic reasons. Others have abortions for medical reasons. Some still are not currently mothers and choose to have an abortion. 

Studies have found, however, that there is a rise in mental health issues for those who have had an abortion. 

  • Women who elect to have an abortion are 81% more likely to have mental health issues.
  • Women who elect to have an abortion are 37% more likely to experience post-abortion depression. 
  • Women who elect to have an abortion are 34% more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
depression after abortion

Understanding Depression After Abortion

Can you get postpartum depression after an abortion? Evidence suggests that abortion can cause depression, but the severity and likelihood are based on things like why abortion was pursued. 

For example, women who opted for abortions in a 2008 review by the APA experienced:

  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Sadness
  • Depression after abortion

However, large-scale studies by Planned Parenthood and other shave determined that several things:

  1. Women with any history of mental health issues prior to obtaining an abortion are more likely to be depressed after an abortion. 
  2. Women who are already mothers and with previous pregnancies struggle with postpartum depression and are at a higher risk of postnatal depression after abortion (especially if the abortion was done in a later term).
  3. Women who have reduced community or home support or felt pressured by a partner to obtain an abortion experience higher levels of post-abortion depression. 

In effect, postpartum depression after abortion is possible, but depression after abortion is not a direct side effect of the medical procedure itself but rather pre-existing mental health issues or stresses that are triggered by the decision. 

Psychological Impact of Abortion

In women, pregnancy creates several hormones specifically designed to encourage the development of the potential child and the bonding with that child. Choosing to have an abortion can elicit an immediate emotional response, even if that decision was made for sound reasons.

A woman who opted for an abortion because of serious health complications is just as likely to experience a psychological impact as a woman who, with her partner, has decided that they cannot sustain a fifth child.

As mentioned, there are significant societal and personal factors that can contribute to depression after abortion.

For example:

A mother who has recognized that she cannot afford another child can experience a lot of negative emotions like depression, grief, sadness, and anxiety after opting for an abortion because the decision might have seemed logical. Still, logic cannot change the emotional impact. That same woman has support at home, so while abortion can cause depression for her, she and her husband decided together, and they will take comfort in one another while she utilizes treatment and management strategies.

Another young mother had an accidental pregnancy. Her family is very religious and does not support abortion, but she decided to pursue one herself as she is of age. Each time she talks to her mother, her mother makes it a point to casually mention how they believe that abortion is a sin and that anyone who gets an abortion or pursues an abortion is a sinner who will go to hell. The family does not know about her abortion officially, so this young mother struggles with the anxiety and depression that comes from lying to them and from being triggered by them. She won’t have their support as she pursues coping mechanisms and treatment, leaving her isolated. 

Identifying Depression Post-Abortion

Whatever form it takes, it is important to recognize the signs of post-abortion depression and differentiate them from normal grieving. 

Normal grieving after an abortion is expected, but these feelings tend to diminish with time. More importantly, they don’t interfere with your ability to complete daily tasks. But if you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, grief, anxiety, and depression that are interfering with your ability to go to work or take care of yourself, and the feelings are getting increasingly worse or staying just as severe, it could be post-abortion depression. 

When to seek help — recognizing the signs that intervention is needed

If you are depressed after abortion procedures, and those feelings have impacted your daily function, it’s a sign that an intervention is needed. Seek immediate medical attention if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms will look slightly different for everyone. 

For example, a mother of three who, with her partner, has decided to have an abortion might have a strong religious background and be able to apply coping mechanisms such as support from her fellow churchgoers, prayer, and scripture reading.

By comparison, a single woman who has decided to terminate an unwanted pregnancy might utilize support from some of her close friends or an older sister while incorporating yoga, music, and meditation into her daily routine.

Practical advice on managing emotional health after an abortion

After an abortion, it’s important that you take steps to manage your emotional health. Knowing that there is a high propensity of additional mental health risks if you have a previous history of mental health disorders, you should be especially cognizant of this if you have any background in depression or anxiety disorders.

The role of support systems

Family involvement, or the support of friends, can be a crucial factor, too. This is an emotional area, and many women do not get support from spouses, partners, friends, or family if there are social or religious underpinnings. This can exacerbate the feelings of post-abortion depression and increase the risk of subsequent substance abuse or suicidal ideations. 

Acknowledging that women do not need an “excuse” to “justify” their choices and that it will always be a decision fraught with psychological and emotional impacts can be the best support others can give. 

Treatment and Management Strategies

In terms of professional treatment, there are several options available if you are experiencing depression after an abortion. 

Therapy and Medication

Almost all treatment for depression involves therapy and medication. New medications on the market are designed specifically for postpartum depression and can be applied to situations where women are experiencing postnatal depression after abortion.

Depression treatment should involve therapy. Any depression medication is rendered more effective when used in conjunction with therapy. Therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most prominent forms of treatment for depression as it provides you with coping mechanisms to change your automatic negative thoughts.

The Importance of Personalized Care

Consider the example above of the young woman whose family is highly religious:

Her depression symptoms might be continually triggered each time she speaks with her family, but she doesn’t want to stop seeing her family altogether. So cognitive behavioral therapy could help her identify the automatic negative thoughts she’s having about herself whenever the family brings up abortion or sin and replace them with positive ones. 

She might not realize that she is subconsciously and automatically thinking less of herself, saying that she is a sinner in her own mind and not worthy of love. But with cognitive behavioral therapy and journaling efforts, she can recognize that these are the thoughts triggered by her family discussions and they are the emotions directly responsible for her spike in depression symptoms.

Her type of treatment might not be the same as the woman who has decided to have an abortion with the support of her family and her partner.

Therefore, it is imperative to find personalized treatment plans with continuous care. Depression symptoms cannot be magically fixed after one therapy session or one month of medication. Working with trusted professionals will give you a chance to find the right combination of medication and therapy, including things like holistic strategies such as:

  • Yoga
  • Music therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Art therapy 


Postnatal depression after abortion is serious. No matter the reason behind an abortion, women are more likely to have depression after abortion procedures, so it is important to recognize and address the symptoms. Understand that there is a chance for hope, recovery, and the availability of help. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression after abortion, seek help today.

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