How to Cope with Depression & Emotions After Abortion

Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW

Published On: September 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, MSW

Reviewed On: September 28, 2023

Updated On: September 28, 2023


Coping with abortion can be painful — especially if you’re trying to do it on your own. If you’re experiencing depression, grief, or any other traumatic emotion after receiving an abortion, know that you’re not alone. While more than 50 years of scientific research shows that access to abortion isn’t linked to mental health issues (yet restricting access is), many women face a wide range of — often unexpected — feelings after ending a pregnancy. If you’re experiencing depression after abortion, it’s important that you take the time to validate your experience and emotions.

Navigating this difficult time alone and learning how to cope with abortion can be challenging, but help is available. Read on to learn more about coping strategies for managing post-abortion depression and how to deal with abortion grief. If you or someone you care about is struggling after an abortion, keep reading to learn how you can cope. 

Understanding Abortion-Related Depression

First and foremost, understand that depression after abortion is a normal, albeit complex, issue that many women face. Emotions related to your abortion experience can be intense and even lead to psychological complications. 

Post-abortion syndrome, PTSD, grief, and other emotional challenges are all normal reactions that some women deal with. 

Feeling depressed after having an abortion can be the result of a number of factors. Research shows it’s not uncommon, either. Hormonal changes, societal stigma, moral beliefs about what you’ve experienced, or even pre-existing mental health conditions can all come into play.

  • Hormonal changes: After a pregnancy ends, you’ll experience a sudden and extreme drop in hormones like estrogen and progesterone. These might contribute to mood swings or hormonal depression symptoms.
  • Societal stigma: If you experience negative attitudes about abortion from within your societal circle, you might feel isolated or ashamed. This can quickly lead to depression.
  • Moral beliefs: Whether it’s your personal moral beliefs or the beliefs of those closest to you, you might experience feelings of regret or guilt that could culminate in depressive episodes.
  • Previous mental health conditions: Especially if you have a history of anxiety or depression, after you terminate a pregnancy, you could be at higher risk for experiencing post-abortion depression.

Coping Strategies for Post-Abortion Depression

Post-abortion care is essential, especially when it comes to negative emotions and accompanying mental health effects, like post-abortion depression. One of the most essential steps in managing depression after abortion is acknowledging your feelings. Being able to express the emotions you’re experiencing will be key in your healing journey — it will allow you to work through and process them. 

iconExpert Insight

“Coping strategies for post-abortion depression can include regular exercising, eating healthy meals, reducing stress by doing yoga or meditation, and reaching out to a support system of friends and family.”
LCSW, Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) Olga Molina

When it comes to how to manage depression associated with abortion, the following strategies can be helpful.

Engage with your feelings

Part of coping with abortion means validating your feelings – whether that’s sadness, anger, guilt, shame, or even relief – there’s no wrong way to feel after an abortion. Give yourself permission to experience all your emotions and do so without judgment.

Find a safe space to feel

Finding support after abortion can also help you manage your emotions. If you want to learn how to deal with abortion grief, you must create or find a safe environment to express your thoughts and feelings openly. You might try journaling, talking to a supportive friend or family member who’s supportive and understands what you’re experiencing, or even joining an online support group for women seeking post-abortion mental healthcare.

Look for self-compassion

Self-compassion is critical if you’re having a tough time emotionally after an abortion. Be kind to yourself and practice self care — self-loathing is tempting but will get you nowhere. Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to go through this, so giving yourself grace is going to be important. Try meditation or yoga, practice healthy sleep habits, and eat a balanced diet as part of your self care plan.

Learn stress management techniques

Stress management techniques can be a powerful way to get through challenging times. You’ll probably find that you use them long after you feel like you’ve healed from this loss. Looking for ways to manage post-abortion stress? Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), and mindful practices like mindfulness meditation are all great ways to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression that you might be feeling.

Let yourself grieve

Grieving is an integral part of healing. Give yourself the space to suffer your loss if you need to. Recognize that what you’re going through is a loss, regardless of whether you made the decision or had no choice about getting an abortion.  

Share your story

Talking about your experience — especially with others who’ve gone through a similar situation — can be incredibly healing. Connect with people who understand what you’re feeling, lean on them, and get comfort from knowing you’re not alone.

Addressing Guilt and Shame After Abortion

Guilt and shame are common negative emotions after any loss, including abortion. Though it will be difficult, it’s essential to confront these feelings so you can process them and begin to move forward.

  • Understand the source of your feelings: Part of addressing any guilt or shame you feel will include understanding their source. The feelings you’re having can stem from personal or family beliefs about abortion, societal expectations, or even pressure from people who don’t agree with your decision to have an abortion. When you reflect on these triggers, you can learn to manage or avoid them so you can focus on the healing process.
  • Face your emotions: Facing your emotions head-on, instead of suppressing or ignoring them, is an important part of the healing process. It’s OK to feel guilty or ashamed — you should acknowledge those feelings and remind yourself that it’s OK to have these feelings without judgment.

iconExpert Insight

“Social stigma can make a person feel guilt or shame during post-abortion. However, joining a support group or seeking therapy from a licensed clinician can help address the grief and sadness and other feelings experienced during this time.”
LCSW, Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) Olga Molina

Moving Forward After Abortion

Remember that healing and moving forward after having an abortion is a process. It’s not something that happens overnight. Give yourself the time and space to go through this transformation so you can heal emotionally and physically. 

Here are some tips on moving through your journey toward recovery:

  • Create a self-care routine: Establishing a solid and healthy self care routine can be crucial in helping you regain emotional balance. Try to incorporate physical activity, a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, meditation, and doing things that make you happy.
  • Be realistic about your self-expectations: Remember that your feelings are normal. Your emotions can run the gamut as you go through the healing process. Be gentle, and don’t pressure yourself into feeling better right away. Give yourself the time you need to recover.
  • Create a support system: Surround yourself with others who understand what depression after abortion feels like. They know what you’ve gone through and can be sensitive, compassionate, and supportive.
  • Journal: Journaling for mental health can be a powerful therapeutic practice that helps you understand your grief as you heal. It can offer insight into your emotional state as you try to cope with the many emotions you might be experiencing.
  • Consider therapy: If you’re struggling with how to cope with abortion, you might consider counseling or therapy for depression and other related conditions. This can be even more critical if you notice worsening mental health effects post-abortion. An experienced, qualified therapist can give you personalized assistance and guidance so you can process your emotions and begin to move on.

Seeking Professional Help

If your depression after an abortion increases or becomes overwhelming, you must seek professional help. Mental health professionals can offer expert advice and coping techniques. Are you struggling with a mental health condition that might be causing your abortion depression? The right therapist can help.

Online therapy platforms like Talkspace make getting help for depression after abortion easy. The platform makes therapy convenient, confidential, affordable, and accessible from the convenience of your own home.

If you need help navigating post-abortion depression, reach out to Talkspace today. We can get you the support you need to start the healing process. There is a path forward after an abortion — and there’s no shame in asking for help. 

See References

Olga Molina

Olga Molina is a licensed clinical social worker with approximately 40 years practice experience with diverse populations offering individual, family, and group counseling. Her research and publications focus primarily on divorce, intimate partner violence (women and children), African American and Latinx families, group work, and social work education. Dr. Molina has been in academia for approximately 20 years teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels on clinical practice with families and groups, and culturally competent practice.

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