Feelings of guilt in women after a voluntary abortion

Feelings of guilt in women after a voluntary abortion

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“Each society pronounces a conviction regarding certain types of behavior, forces them to lead an underground life or a clandestine existence. Entire sections of a culture are banned, excluded and repressed" Leplantine

Going through a voluntary or elective abortion is a situation that can be complex and challenging in many ways for women; some of them generate emotions and beliefs that can impair your emotional balance, as is the case of those who carry feelings of guilt after the termination of a pregnancy, even for years.

However, being such a controversial issue, there is a heated international debate, in many countries there is still a great repression in this regard, so it is common to avoid talking about the issue, despite the silence, without proper psychological management. Problem can grow in the shadows and take root.


  • 1 Medical-scientific perspective on induced abortion
  • 2 Voluntary abortion with multidisciplinary assistance
  • 3 Men and the feeling of loss of an unborn child
  • 4 The female body: a field of political and moral debate?
  • 5 Sex education and abortion prevention
  • 6 Blame for voluntary abortion and its consequences

Medical-scientific perspective on induced abortion

The National Center for Health Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization (WHO), define abortion as termination of pregnancy before the 20th week of gestation or with fetus born with a weight <500 grams. However, these criteria are contradictory because the average weight of a 20-week fetus is 320 grams, while 500 grams correspond to the average weight between 22 and 23 weeks (Moore, 1977).

As for the provoked abortions can be distinguished those that are indicated for maternal or therapeutic health effects and electives or volunteers. The first occur when the life of the woman is in danger, when there are serious congenital malformations, in the case that there are more children and they can be neglected because the health of the mother can be delicate, when there was rape, although in Some countries had to be verified and denounced at the time, when many women who experienced this type of situation do not file a formal complaint.

Elective abortions can have various causes, the woman who wants to abort has three options before her: the possibility of continuing her pregnancy with her implicit parental risks and responsibilities, she can assume the responsibility of continuing the pregnancy and giving the baby in adoption or deciding on abortion with its implicit risks, as Baker (2009) stated.

The procedures are easier while the gestation process is less advanced, some doctors believe that it should ideally be done before 21 days gestation to avoid risks. When a woman decides to terminate the pregnancy, Ideally, it should be done under medical scrutiny, with adequate sanitary and safety conditions, coupled with psychotherapeutic support.

Regarding the safety of the procedure, induced or voluntary abortion can be classified as medically:

  1. It is carried out by trained people who use procedures and measures suggested by WHO in terms of safety issues.
  2. Less safe.When only one of the two criteria mentioned above is met.
  3. Nothing sure.By not meeting any of the above criteria.

The Guttmacher Institute and WHO estimate that of the 56 million induced abortions that took place each year during the period from 2010 to 2014, of which 55% of abortions each year were safe, while 45% were Under unsafe conditions, specifically: 31% were less safe and 14% were considered as nothing safe.The largest abortion rates in the world are found in Africa and Latin America.

Warning signs after a voluntary or elective abortion

After the woman undergoes an abortion, what are some symptoms that should be monitored? Physical recovery should be within a few days, uterine colic and mild vaginal bleeding are normal within recovery, the doctor can indicate the particularities of each case. The alarm signs after an abortion they can be: submit severe pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge that could indicate an infection or fever and you should see a doctor as soon as possible, if the abortion was not performed by a doctor, when presenting any of these symptoms it is necessary to go to one.

Overall, statistics show that generally in countries where this practice is legal, voluntary abortions are usually performed safely and complications are rare. Maternal deaths due to induced abortion represent 13% of women who perform it, most of these deaths occur in countries where abortion is illegal and have a very repressive sociocultural environment and its Policies around this are restrictive.

The cultural, legal and criminal situation regarding the termination of voluntary pregnancy is different in the countries and even varies in the regions or states of the same, 33 countries expanded the circumstances under which abortion is legally permitted between 2000 and 2017. Customs and beliefs occasionally permeate the practice of medicine, to address the issue of voluntary pregnancy termination it is necessary to consider both the medical and psychosocial aspects of the phenomenon.

Voluntary abortion with multidisciplinary assistance

Physical complications are very rare when practiced by a doctor and performed under safety parameters relevant to such a procedure. On the other hand, the psychological problems that could be derived from the interruption of the voluntary pregnancy are more common, often the emotional suffering is not visible or it can arrive with the years.

It is worth mentioning that both men and women can suffer the Post-Abortion Syndrome (SPA), which can cause a feeling of emptiness and It involves several psychological risk factors to develop other conditions psychological when properly working the grieving process.

Therefore, it is advisable to seek multidisciplinary support with health professionals when pregnancy is suspected, that way you will have a comprehensive health care. On the one hand, the medical team will be aware of the physical part of the patient, however, for everything that this process represents, It is appropriate to seek psychological support in a timely manner, the therapist can support the couple, so that the void generated does not cause the distance between them, can also guide the woman through the different stages that voluntary abortion implies.

You may be interested: 7 indicators of Emotional Suffering

Men and the feeling of loss of an unborn child

Can men suffer the loss of a child by the voluntary abortion that their sexual partner performs? Current knowledge about physiology gives us a very complete framework about male and female participation in reproduction, from the events that lead to the contact of sexual cells, to the most complex mechanisms of genetic exchange that result in the formation of a human being.

While there are men who do not give their support to women when they become pregnant or do not get involved with their fatherhood, there are some who long to have their child and are excited when they know that it is on its way even if the circumstances are not the most favorable, without However, the last decision must be made by the female and sometimes it is different from what man wants.

Psychologically it can be difficult for some men when they want to have the baby and the woman decides to terminate her pregnancy, can generate in them feelings of frustration, guilt and anger, so it is necessary to properly elaborate the loss of your child to transcend this discomfort, when you can not get it on your own, it is advisable to seek psychological support.

Sexuality is not only just "genitality", generally when the woman decides to terminate her pregnancy she is under circumstances of great pressure, so if she has a partner, it is important that the bond between lovers, caresses, kisses and hugs be strengthened can be healing and comforting for both, because in the event that the decision has been made as a couple, the man can also suffer the loss of his son, Accompanying the couple throughout the process is important for the relationship.

The female body: a field of political and moral debate?

To a large extent, the vision of abortion depends on how the fetus or embryo is considered, many countries focus their attention on the debate of moral and religious conceptions. Abortion is a public health issue, as it can endanger the lives of women when it is not performed under safe conditions, but It is also a matter of women's sovereignty over their own body.

Maternity imposed vs. Elective abortion

Being a mother is an experience that may Be beautiful, unique and transformative, but the woman must be free and in turn responsible for the decisions she makes for herself, bearing in mind that every choice has inevitable consequences that will have to be dealt with. There are women who have a great fear of being mothers or who simply do not want to be mothers and are in their right.

Stereotypes that usually condemn induced abortion can be an obstacle for the person to ask for help, especially if he is very young or does not have the necessary resources, sometimes for fear of signaling; Nevertheless, Denying induced abortion when it is the will of the woman can amount to torture, as reported by Juan Méndez, chronicler of the United Nations Organization (UN).

A mother who was forced to exercise her motherhood and did not work properly these conflicts can be very toxic for parenting., it can become a "bad chest," as Melanie Klein said. When the baby is born inside the mother's womb, her “emotional skin”Therefore, the importance of building a climate conducive in every way for the gestation of a new life, however when the child is not wanted and is even repudiated, he can perceive that he was not expected and generate other sufferings. 40% of unwanted pregnancies end in a voluntary or elective abortion.

The practice of abortion may be more problematic due to Restrictive policies, in many cases impose women into forced motherhood, when he sometimes does not have what is necessary to raise the child that grows in his womb, thus turning it into a moral conflict in turn, with the burden of guilt that such judgments usually generate.

Sex education and abortion prevention

There are many primitive beliefs about reproduction, the population at risk needs to be informed about the different methods of birth control. An estimated 214 million women in the world have a level of unmet need for contraception and unplanned pregnancy, which helps explain the high levels of abortion in countries with highly restrictive laws.

Health professionals can collaborate with objective and timely information, warn of the range of possibilities they have for the couple or the woman to make an informed decision, whether or not they decide to continue with the gestation process.

Before induced abortion, the most convenient contraceptive method should be investigated, among the youngest population and with less access to education it is common that there is a myth that after the procedure it will be difficult for the woman to remain in a state of Gravidity, which is why they often do not prevent, being more susceptible to another unplanned pregnancy and therefore, perhaps to another induced abortion. Contraceptive methods can be started immediately after the termination of pregnancy.

Blame for voluntary abortion and its consequences

Having an elective abortion can be a very difficult situation for some women, generating guilty feelings, especially when you have reason to want to stay with the baby that is growing inside it, if you are in a state of much confusion or even they can occur even when the woman does not have the means that are required to provide the basic needs of her child, when the life of the product is in danger, when she does not have support or for the reasons she has considered relevant for the interruption of your pregnancy, you can also nest emotions not suitable for your well-being.

What would have happened if I had done different things? How old would my son be right now? These are some of the questions often asked by women who had a voluntary abortion, it may be that the question is generated over the years, but in different circumstances of life, the question may be inevitable, for example, when you go to the gynecologist For female health control, it turns out that this data should remain as an important gynecological clinical history for the health care of women, so it is pertinent to respond honestly.

What consequences can a woman have for not properly elaborating a duel of a lost child through induced abortion? The psychological effects can be diverse, depend largely on beliefs, attitude, skills, the stage of development in which the woman is and even cognitive maturity and emotional balance of the same, so emotional release is necessary after an abortion of any kind.

Human beings are our beliefs. Some of us bitter existence, but others create bridges to success, work miracles in our health and open windows to new possibilities. Knowing what my beliefs are in each section of my life, I can be free. ”Rosetta Forner

In clinical practice, many women who underwent a voluntary abortion in the past, come to consultation for different psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety, insomnia and even dependencies on substances and / or people, to name a few and throughout psychotherapeutic work, some begin to report feelings of guilt after a long time of having a voluntary abortion, sometimes at another stage of their life and although the etiology of these disorders can be multifactorial, it is different in each case and usually has other components to detonate them, evidently not having properly elaborated the loss of a child can affect the woman's self-esteem and contribute a "grain of sand" to the psychological conditions experienced by the patient.

It has been observed that some women who have had repeated abortions spontaneously, when the etiology is not explainable by some physical condition, sometimes the nested guilt can make the woman feel “unable or unworthy” to return to life or even guilt can look for the "autocast”, One way is to deny yourself the maternal when you want, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, backed by a strong belief system.

For let go Those feelings that harm women need to be made aware that there was a life within her, it is even a preventive practice for the female to take care of herself more in the future, take responsibility for her own sexuality and her body. Psychologically they can stay Reminiscent of conceptions that link feelings of guilt, shame and / or anger, a psychotherapeutic process can help the person get free.

Some of these women live in obedience to rules of which they are not aware, many of these paradigms are adopted from the society in which they live without even questioning them. There are rules that help us to guide us in life and others that are outdated and outdated. It is necessary to make an analysis about the paradigms that govern one's life and ask What is the purpose of the rules you follow? The convenient ones make your life easier and others tend to limit your development. It is necessary to review the own inventory of regulations, Virginia Satir proposes an interesting question to detect the belief system:

“Are your rules manifest, human and up to date or are they covert, inhuman and outdated?

It is advisable to identify certain beliefs that are not suitable for the development of the person, to study in depth the advantages and setbacks that they cause in your life, it is possible to eradicate pernicious beliefs for the person and replace, modify or reconstruct more appropriate onesThese actions are necessary to write your own vital script.


Bibliographic references

  • Cunningham, F. Gary; Leveno, Kenneth, J .; Bloom, Steven, L .; Spong Catherine, Y., Dashe, S. Jodi; Hoffman, Barbara, L; Casey, Brian M. and Sheffield, Jeanne S. (2014). Williams Obstetrics. 24e USA: McGrawHill Education.
  • Forner, Rosetta (2002). NLP for everyone. Mexico: Editorial Quarzo.
  • Flores, Javier (2001). The sexual paradigm Mexico: Editorial Lectorum.
  • Lamas, Marta (2002). Body: sexual difference and gender. Mexico: Taurus.
  • Satir, Virginia (1991). New human relationships in the family Nucleo. Mexico: Editorial Pax.
  • Savall Domingo, A. et al. (1998). Me, you and us. Educating sexuality and affectivity. Barcelona: Notebooks Octahedron.