Making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy isn’t easy. We understand that it took a great deal of soul-searching and fact gathering for your girlfriend and you to choose abortion from a list of options that may have seemed overwhelming.
We realize that the abortion process affects both of you individually, and applaud you for wanting to know what you can do to support your girlfriend or partner in this season. You have a remarkable opportunity to practice empathy as she goes through the post-abortion process, and it’s the perfect time to show how much you care for her by providing practical and emotional support.
In this article, we’ll discuss what your girlfriend might experience after having an abortion, and what you can do to support her.
Provide Practical Support
Whether your girlfriend had a medical abortion or a surgical abortion, it was and will continue to be a shock to her system as her body heals. Cramping, bleeding, and fatigue might cause her not to feel well physically. You can provide practical support in the following ways:
- Check in with her often by asking how she’s feeling and if she needs anything.
- Extra pillows
- Heating pad
- Pain medication
- Offer to run errands
- Stay with her if she wants the company
- Offer to take her to follow-up appointments
- Show her you care by doing something special for her.
- Buy her favorite flowers
- Cook her favorite dinner (or take her out if she’s feeling up to it)
- Bring her favorite books or magazines
- Watch her favorite movie with her
- Give her a unique gift
- Write her an encouraging letter
- Learn about the post-abortion recovery process, so you are involved and know what to expect.
- Consider these examples of supportive communication:
- “Do you want some alone time, or would you like me to stay with you?”
- “I’m here for you whenever you feel like talking.”
- “I’m sorry you’re the one physically going through this. What can I do to help?”
- “What are you feeling? You’ve been through a lot.”
- “Do you want to talk?”
Provide Emotional Support
Even if your girlfriend or partner felt certain abortion was the right choice, having an abortion can cause a wide range of emotions from relief to regret or sadness. The degree of emotion can vary from day to day and can rise up immediately following an abortion or years later. Recovery will require your emotional support so she’s not left alone to cope.
A major cause for the varied emotional responses after an abortion is the sudden drop in hormones. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) pregnancy hormone levels are at their highest before 17 weeks of pregnancy. When your girlfriend had her abortion, those hCG levels dropped suddenly, which can also cause emotional responses.
While there is much discussion around Post-Abortion Syndrome Symptoms (PASS), it is understood that abortion is typically associated with stressful circumstances and therefore can potentially have psychological repercussions, according to Psychology Today. In addition, any event that causes trauma can indeed result in PTSD, and abortion is no exception, the article goes on to say.
Some women report experiencing negative memories (sometimes called “trauma triggers”) of their abortion experience. Trauma triggers can be any sights, sounds, smells, or thoughts that remind your girlfriend of her abortion. If triggers begin to interfere with her quality of life, you may want to suggest professional counseling or attend a support group together. Learn more about the free services Avail NYC offers for those who are healing from a past abortion experience.
Your girlfriend may feel confused about what is happening to her body if she begins to have an array of positive or negative feelings, particularly if she identifies herself as an emotionally strong person. Learn to validate her feelings. Validating them doesn’t mean you agree with them; it means that you are hearing her and acknowledging her experience. Let her know that it’s normal if she feels relieved and sad all at the same time. And if a part of you has any negative feelings, share that with her, too. Assure her that you’re in this together.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, common negative feelings following an abortion experience include:
Anger is a normal emotion your girlfriend might feel during recovery from her abortion. She can be angry at herself for having to make an abortion decision, the medical community, her religious community, and even you. Take responsibility for your part in the pregnancy. Express that you’re sorry she is the one who has had to physically experience the abortion.
Experiencing guilt doesn’t mean you regret your decision, rather it’s a natural response one can feel after making a very difficult decision. Guilt can stem from your girlfriend feeling she bears the entire weight of the decision and its consequences or how she views others in her life might perceive her for making this decision. Regardless of why she is experiencing guilt, acknowledge how she feels and provide encouragement.
An abortion is a significant event, and sometimes women experience anxiety afterward. Your girlfriend may express fear about her future or getting pregnant again. She may encounter difficulty sleeping and concentrating. She may also experience “panic attacks” that include shortness of breath and heart racing. If your girlfriend is suffering from these symptoms, encourage her to contact a mental health care professional.
It might surprise you if your girlfriend expresses regret after her abortion because you thought you both agreed you were making the best decision for your situation, but regret is also a common emotion for your girlfriend to experience. Your compassion won’t make her regret go away, but it can ease the pain.
If your girlfriend makes any comments suggesting she is contemplating suicide, contact a physician or mental health professional immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
It’s also important to understand that you and your girlfriend might not feel any negative emotions at all. You don’t have to regret your decision in order to desire professional support or a place to talk with others who have been in a similar situation. Support is still available to you.
If your girlfriend or you want to talk through any unresolved thoughts or emotions related to a past abortion experience, Avail NYC is here for you. We provide no-cost, one-on-one advocacy and post-abortion support groups led by compassionate and skilled advocates. Make a free, confidential appointment today.
Avail exists to be a safe haven for women and men facing an unexpected pregnancy or seeking support after an abortion. We are not a medical provider.