P0ST-ABORTION SYNDROME (PAS) Post-abortion syndrome occurs after an abortion and can be experienced by both men and women. Symptoms are similar to those in any post-traumatic stress disorder and may involve psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual distress.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (PAS) is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and affects everyone involved. Making the decision to have an abortion and then having the procedure itself, is traumatic at its core. Many women who just want to be “unpregnant” will try to forget, ignore, or deny the pain that may result.
Some symptoms may appear immediately after an abortion, and some much later. Many women don’t relate the distress they’re going through to the abortion. But at some point memories will surface and they will no longer be able to deny its cause.
Not all women will experience the same symptoms or even at the same time, nor is it likely that one woman will experience all of the symptoms. If, however, you have experienced at least two of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing post-abortion syndrome.
SYMPTOMS OF POST-ABORTION SYNDROME
Women are genetically designed to protect their children. That basic instinct is short-circuited by abortion. Often when bad events happen in the future, the guilt she feels will cause her to believe that she “deserves” them.
A common reaction after an abortion is feeling tense and anxious. Some women have reported physical reactions, such as nausea, dizziness, accelerated heartbeat, and headaches. They may not be able to concentrate, and have a difficult time sleeping. They may worry about the future, and not understand what is causing their anxiety.
AVOIDING CHILDREN OR PREGNANT WOMEN
Another common reaction for post-abortive women is to avoid pregnant women or children, especially children around the age their own child would have been. They may skip going to baby showers or other events that include pregnant women or children, avoid going down the baby aisle in a store, or go out of their way to avoid a playground.
Many women will deliberately shut down their emotions in order to avoid painful thoughts. They may stop seeing friends and even family members, especially if they are a reminder of the abortion. They would rather not feel at all than the pain they have suffered. Sometimes they turn to drugs or alcohol to help numb the hurt.
Some post-abortive women think it would be better to die than to go on feeling the way they do. Others miss their lost child and think they could join them and hold them at last.
The anniversary of the aborted child’s due date or the date of the abortion can be a cause of horrible feelings for no apparent reason. Sometimes it takes years for a post abortive woman to realize that these dates are related to her abortion experience.
RELIVING THE ABORTION
A woman who has gone through an abortion can suddenly re-experience the clinic and remember everything in her mind. Memories can be triggered by sounds heard during the abortion procedure, like a vacuum cleaner or a dentist’s drill. An annual Pap test can also bring back those memories. Other women experience nightmares in which children are involved, often in pain. Sometimes those nightmares are recurring.
WANTING TO GET PREGNANT AGAIN
It is normal to want to get pregnant again after any pregnancy loss, as soon as possible. Some women hope to replace the child that was lost during the abortion. Others do so out of a desire to make sure that they can still have a baby, which can also be due to a FEAR OF INFERTILITY, another common reaction after an abortion. Many women fear that they have aborted the only child they will ever have, and others suspect that the abortion could have mutilated their body in some way, possibly causing scar tissue that could cause a tubal pregnancy.
INABILITY TO BOND WITH OTHER CHILDREN (Present & future)
Some post-abortive women have guilt that is buried so deeply they don’t recognize it as such, but unconsciously become emotionally distant to their other children, fearing that they might somehow hurt them. This can also cause a FEAR THAT FUTURE CHILDREN WILL DIE. This can lead them to overprotect their children at an unhealthy level.
Anorexia and bulimia are common eating disorders for women who have had an abortion. These types of eating disorders for women generally make them think that they can personally regulate their lives, especially when they feel that their lives are out of control. In addition, for some post-abortive women, they may get fat or thin to avoid anyone wanting them on a sexual level, as that could lead to another pregnancy and another pregnancy decision.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE
Many women who have had an abortion turn to alcohol or drugs as tranquilizers to anesthetize their memories of an abortion and keep them at a distance, calm their anxiety, and help them to sleep. Sadly, the overuse often leads to other problems, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
HOPE AND HEALING
You are not alone! If you have gone through an abortion and have experienced any of the above symptoms, there is help. Someone understands and is ready to listen.
Experience the mercy, compassion, and healing God offers in a safe and confidential environment.
Be able to grieve the loss of your unborn child and accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
Allow yourself to face and release the feelings of anger, shame, guilt, and grief that you may be feeling.
Pregnancy Care Centers of Chandler and Gilbert offer free PACE counseling classes. Call 480-374-2994 Mon-Wed 9am-4pm, Thu 1pm-8pm