Abortion and mental health are two issues that are intrinsically linked. When you undergo an abortion, it is not just a physical process, but also a psychological one. The experience can bring about a range of emotions and mental health challenges, from relief and sadness to anxiety and depression. In the UK, where abortion is legal and accessible, the need for mental health support following an abortion is critical.
Despite the legal status of abortion in the UK, the stigma surrounding it can often result in women feeling isolated and unsupported. It is essential that you are aware of the emotional aspects of abortion, and the importance of seeking mental health support to navigate these emotions. This article seeks to shed light on the critical connection between abortion and mental health in the UK, the mental health services available post-abortion, and the challenges faced in accessing them.
Understanding the relationship between abortion and mental health can help you seek the support you need, ensure your emotional well-being, and empower you to make informed decisions about your reproductive health.
The Psychological Impact of Abortion
Abortion is a personal and often complex decision. The psychological impact can vary greatly from person to person, influenced by personal beliefs, societal attitudes, support systems, reasons for the abortion, and previous mental health history. Feelings of relief and empowerment are common, yet so are feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and regret.
In some cases, the psychological impact of an abortion can lead to mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. It is crucial to understand that these reactions are not indicative of weakness or an inability to cope, but a normal response to a significant life event.
The controversy surrounding abortion and its potential psychological impact often obscures the reality that mental health challenges can arise from any pregnancy outcome, including childbirth and miscarriage. The key to managing these challenges lies in acknowledging the psychological impact and seeking appropriate mental health support.
The Controversy Surrounding Abortion and Mental Health
The relationship between abortion and mental health has been the subject of much debate and controversy. Some argue that abortion itself leads to mental health problems, while others contend that it is the stigma, shame, and lack of support surrounding abortion that cause emotional distress.
Critics often use mental health as a weapon to further their anti-abortion agenda, arguing that abortion causes psychological harm. However, it is crucial for you to understand that reputable research and medical organizations have found no evidence to support this claim.
Conversely, there is substantial evidence to suggest that denying women access to abortion services can result in adverse mental health outcomes. Regardless of the controversy, the focus should be on ensuring mental health support is available and accessible to all women who undergo an abortion.
Statistics on Abortion and Mental Health in the UK
In the UK, around 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they are 45. Research has found that most women do not experience mental health problems solely as a result of an abortion. However, women with a history of mental health problems are more likely to experience negative emotions and psychological distress after an abortion.
A comprehensive study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found no evidence that abortion directly causes mental health problems. However, they did note that women who have an abortion are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems if they have a history of mental health issues, lack a support network, or face stigma and discrimination.
These statistics highlight the importance of considering individual circumstances when assessing the potential mental health impact of abortion. They also emphasize the necessity of mental health support in helping women navigate their emotions and experiences following an abortion.
The Importance of After Abortion Support
Post-abortion support is vital in helping women manage their emotional response and mitigate any potential mental health issues. After abortion support can come in various forms, including counselling, support groups, and online resources. It can provide a safe space for you to express your feelings, process your experience, and receive the necessary psychological support.
The provision of after abortion support also plays a crucial role in combating the stigma surrounding abortion. By normalising discussions about abortion and its emotional impact, the judgment and shame often associated with it can be reduced. This can make it easier for you to seek the help you need without fear of judgement or discrimination.
It’s important to remember that seeking post abortion support does not mean that you are weak or that your decision to have an abortion was wrong. It simply means that you are taking care of your mental health and ensuring you have the support necessary to navigate this significant life event.
Mental Health Services Available for Women Post-Abortion
In the UK, a range of mental health services are available for women post-abortion. These services can be accessed through the NHS, private healthcare providers, or non-profit organisations. They include psychological counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and support groups.
These services aim to provide you with a safe and supportive environment to discuss your feelings and experiences, develop coping strategies, and address any mental health concerns. The type of support that will be most beneficial to you depends on your individual circumstances and needs.
It is important to remember that you do not have to navigate this journey alone. Reach out to mental health professionals, your GP, or abortion service providers to find out what support is available to you.
Some free support services are listed at the end of this article.
Challenges in Accessing Mental Health Support after Abortion
While mental health services are available post-abortion, accessing them can sometimes be challenging. Stigma, lack of information, long waiting times, and geographical location can all act as barriers to accessing mental health support.
The stigma surrounding abortion can often leave you feeling isolated and reluctant to seek help. Additionally, not knowing what mental health services are available or how to access them can prevent you from seeking the support you need.
Furthermore, the demand for mental health services often exceeds the supply, resulting in long waiting times. This can delay the provision of essential support, potentially worsening mental health outcomes. Lastly, those living in rural areas may find accessing mental health services particularly difficult due to a lack of local services.
Case Studies: The Experience of Women Seeking Mental Health and Abortion Support
The experiences of women seeking mental health and abortion support are as diverse as the women themselves. While some women find the support they need, others face numerous challenges in their journey to access mental health services.
One woman, who chose to remain anonymous, described feeling a mix of relief and sadness following her abortion. While she felt confident in her decision to have an abortion, she struggled with feelings of guilt and regret. She sought counselling through a local non-profit organisation and found it incredibly beneficial in helping her navigate her emotions.
Another woman, Sarah, experienced significant anxiety following her abortion. She found it difficult to access mental health support due to long waiting times and eventually sought help from a private counsellor. Sarah's experience highlights the need for more readily available mental health support for women post-abortion.
The Future of Mental Health Support and Abortion Services in the UK
Looking ahead, it is clear that there is a need for increased awareness and accessibility of mental health support for women post-abortion. With more women seeking abortions each year, the demand for mental health services is expected to increase.
The future of mental health support and abortion services in the UK should focus on tackling the stigma surrounding abortion, improving access to mental health services, and ensuring that all women have the support they need to navigate their abortion experience.
Efforts should also be made to promote and improve education about the emotional aspects of abortion and the importance of mental health support. This can empower you to make informed decisions about your reproductive health and seek the help you deserve.
Conclusion: The Vital Connection between Abortion and Mental Health in the UK
In conclusion, the connection between abortion and mental health in the UK is vital and complex. Understanding this connection is crucial in ensuring you have the support you need to navigate your abortion experience and maintain your mental well-being.
Remember, it's okay to seek help. Reach out to a mental health professional, your GP, or abortion service provider to find out what support is available to you. Your mental health matters, and you deserve all the support you need to navigate this significant life event.
Support for abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, neo-natal and infant loss
Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (ARCH) Area served: National Telephone: 0345 603 8501 Website: www.archtrust.org.uk Dedicated to promoting the emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being, by the provision of real understanding, counselling and supportive help to women, men and families after abortion. Services are confidential and free of charge. They offer a helpline staffed by volunteer Befrienders and free one to one counselling. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: Helpline, 7pm - 10pm daily
Action on Pre-eclampsia (APEC) Area served: National Telephone: 01386 761848 Website: www.action-on-pre-eclampsia.org.uk Action on Pre-eclampsia (also known as APEC) aims to raise public and professional awareness of pre-eclampsia, improve care, and ease or prevent physical and emotional suffering caused by the disease. They do do this by providing information and support to people throughout the UK who are affected by pre-eclampsia. Email: email@example.com Hours: Helpline, Monday to Friday 9am - 9pm
Aidan's Elephants Area served: National Website: www.aidanselephants.co.uk A charity which donates memory boxes, receipt of life certificates and other memory keepsakes to Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, Yorkshire. Also offers national online support via its website and social media to anyone affected by the loss of a baby or young child of any gestation or age. Will signpost bereaved parents to other organisations where necessary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatives Counselling & Listening Rooms Area served: Dundee & Tayside Telephone: 01382 221 112 Website: www.alternativesdundee.org They offer support to parents who must make a pregnancy decision, pregnancy loss, abortion care, infertility, and children in care. Sometimes these can be long held secrets or people might just need to someone not involved with them. Email: email@example.com
Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) Area served: National Telephone: 0207 713 7486 Website: www.arc-uk.org ARC offers non-directive information and support to parents before, during and after antenatal screening; when they are told their baby has an anomaly; when they are making difficult decisions about continuing with or ending a pregnancy, and when they are coping with complex and painful issues after making a decision, including bereavement. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: Helpline, Monday to Friday 9 - 5pm and 7 - 10pm
Baby Loss Retreat Area served: Scotland Telephone: 07868 557 343 Website: www.babylossretreat.org.uk They offer residential retreat to couples who have suffered the loss of a child. 3 locations in Scotland, with counselling available to help couples speak in a quiet environment about their experience together. They also offer a support group every 3 weeks, a live lunch every 6 months, newsletter, and online social media. Email: email@example.com
Bliss Area served: National Telephone: 020 7378 1122 Website: www.bliss.org.uk BLISS exists to give every baby born premature or sick in the UK the best chance of survival and quality of life. They champion their right to receive the best care by supporting families, campaigning for change and supporting professionals and enabling life-changing research. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brief Lives - Remembered Area served: National Telephone: 07807 531084 Website: www.brieflives-remembered.co.uk Brief lives remembered support families whose baby was stillborn or born and died in decades gone by, whether they live locally or around the world. They provide a remembrance book for babies and children and assist families with tracing their baby's grave. Email: email@example.com
Child Bereavement UK (CBUK) Area served: National Telephone: 0800 02 888 40 Website: www.childbereavementuk.org Supporting children, young people, parents, and families to rebuild their lives when a child grieves or when a child dies. They also educates professionals when a baby or child dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
FirstLight Area served: Ireland Telephone: 1800 391 391 Website: www.firstlight.ie A bereavement support service for parents and families anywhere in Ireland who experience the sudden loss of a child up to the age of 18 years. They offer a national 24 hour helpline, home visits, therapy and peer support groups. Email: email@example.com Hours: Helpline 24 hour
Footsteps Counselling and Care Area served: Gloucestershire Telephone: 01452 308 618 Website: www.footstepscandc.org.uk A charity supporting anyone who has experienced fertility or pregnancy issues, traumatic birth or baby loss at any time and any age in the Gloucestershire area. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Forever Stars Area served: East Midlands Telephone: 0787 246 3856 Website: www.foreverstars.org An East Midlands charity dedicated to supporting families who have suffered a stillbirth or infant loss. The charity funds bereavement suites, training for midwives, counselling services for siblings affected by baby loss as well as providing support materials for families and a remembrance garden. Email: email@example.com
Glasgow Children’s Hospital Service Area served: Greater Glasgow and Clyde Telephone: 0141 370 4747 Website: www.childbereavementuk.org/glasgow-childrens-hospital-service Child Bereavement UK is commissioned by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde with funding from Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity to provide bereavement support for families bereaved of a baby or child, and to support NHS GG&C staff affected by the death of a child or with working in this field. Email: GHsupport@childbereavementuk.org
Graceful Angels Area served: Essex Telephone: 07962 265 110 A support group set up by bereaved mum, Catherine Patel in memory of her daughter, Grace who passed away at 10 months of age in 2014. Grace was a twin. Graceful Angels will support families through the loss of a multiple baby/child by offering a monthly meeting giving the opportunity for parents to meet with others. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Held in our Hearts Area served: Edinburgh and Lothians Telephone: 0131 622 6263 Website: www.heldinourhearts.org.uk A charity which supports families in Edinburgh and the Lothians (originally was Edinburgh SANDS) with baby loss. They have online group support, one to one, group, befriending and counselling to offer. Email: email@example.com
Lullaby Trust Area served: National Telephone: 0808 802 6868 Website: www.lullabytrust.org.uk Confidential support to anyone affected by the sudden and unexpected death of a baby or young toddler. Support offered for families, friends, carers and professionals. Helpline, Befrienders, Online discussion forum, Family Days, In Memory Site. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: Monday to Friday, 10.00 - 17.00 and Weekends 18.00 - 22.00
Making Miracles Area served: England Telephone: 01622 735230 Website: www.makingmiracles.org.uk Provides baby trauma support and bereavement care. This is achieved through professional counselling, support groups, a baby memorial garden, memorial bears and 'The Baby' book. They offer support to the whole family including grandparents and siblings. Email: email@example.com
Maternity Trauma and Loss Care (M-TLC) Area served: London areas Website: www.westlondon.nhs.uk/maternitytrauma/referral The Maternity Trauma and Loss Care Service - also known as M-TLC - provides specialist support and treatment to woman and pregnant people, those who have experiences pregnancy or birth, their families and supported network - who are affected by birth trauma or baby loss. Working in partnership with Central North and West London mental health and maternity trusts. Ealing, Hounslow, Hammersmith or Fulham Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 328 4444 Brent, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kensington, Chelsea or Westminster Email: email@example.com or 0800 0234 650
Miscarriage Association Area served: National Telephone: 01924 200 799 Website: www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk Information and support for anyone affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Email (Northern Ireland): email@example.com Hours: Helpline, Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm
Miscarriage Support (MISS) Area served: Scotland Telephone: 07808 638 428 Website: www.miss-support.org.uk A miscarriage support service covering all of Scotland for anyone who has experienced baby loss. They offer immediate support by phone, text, WhatsApp. Support groups are currently held online. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peas in a Pod - Loss in a Multiple Pregnancy Area served: Ireland Telephone: 353 85 1920602 Website: www.inha.ie Peas in a Pod: loss in a multiple pregnancy works in partnership with the Irish Neonatal Health Alliance. It was set up by a group of bereaved parents who lost a baby (babies) in a multiple pregnancy. It acts as an awareness and advocacy group. This is for people based in Ireland. Email: email@example.com
Petals Charity Area served: Cambridge, London, Oxford and Ipswich Telephone: 0300 688 0068 Website: www.petalscharity.org Charity providing specialist counselling to parents suffering trauma and loss during pregnancy and birth. Counselling is offered at Addenbrooks Hospital, Cambridge, Queen Charlotte's Hospital and St Mary's Hospital, London, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and Ipswich Hospital. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip's Footprints Area served: Jersey Telephone: 01534 631173 Website: www.philipsfootprints.org Philip's Footprints offer memory boxes to local families in Jersey who have sadly lost a baby or child from 12-14 weeks gestation to full term or neonatal loss and older children. They offer peer support and an annual remembrance service for families affected by the loss of a baby (any gestation) or child. Email: email@example.com
SANDS Area served: National Telephone: 0808 164 3332 Website: www.sands.org.uk Support for anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. They provide bereavement support services both nationally through the helpline, mobile app, online community and resources, and locally through a UK-wide network of around 100 regional support groups. firstname.lastname@example.org Email: email@example.com (for Northern Ireland)
Scottish Cot Death Trust Area served: Scotland Telephone: 0141 357 3946 Website: www.scottishcotdeathtrust.org Offers support and information for families who have suffered the sudden and unexpected death of babies and young children. They also educate the public and professionals about sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SiMBA Charity Area served: Scotland Telephone: 0131 353 0055 Website: www.simbacharity.org.uk SiMBA provide memory boxes to bereaved parents, offer support groups online for anyone affected by the loss of a baby. They provide tree of tranquillity locations throughout Scotland and are working to providing specialist family rooms within maternity units. Email: email@example.com
The Alder Centre Area served: Liverpool and surrounding area Telephone: 0151 252 5391 Website: www.aldercentre.org.uk The Alder Centre is a place like no other, providing bereavement care and education for anyone affected by the death of a child of any age. They provide a variety of free, confidential services to people bereaved through child loss. Counselling, befriending, therapeutic breaks and holistic therapies are available. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm
The Foundation for Infant Loss Training Area served: National Website: www.foundationforinfantloss.co.uk The Foundation for Infant Loss Training is committed to providing first class education in Pregnancy and Infant Loss and how to best support bereaved families. They also offer a baby loss directory, supporting families by signposting them to financial assistance, information or counselling provision. Email: email@example.com
The Lily Foundation Area served: National Telephone: 0300 400 1234 Website: www.thelilyfoundation.org.uk The Lily Foundation is a charity fighting mitochondrial disease, fighting for hope. They raise money to fund research, raise awareness and support affected families and adults living with mitochondrial disease. Talking to someone who understands can bring a sense of relief and clarity for patients and families. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lily Mae Foundation Area served: West Midlands and Warwickshire Telephone: 01676 532 679 Website: www.lilymaefoundation.org Supports parents and families who have tragically and traumatically lost a baby to stillbirth, neonatal death, miscarriage and medical termination. Raising awareness of how tragically common the loss of a baby is. Email: email@example.com
The Mariposa Trust Area served: National Telephone: 0300 323 1350 Website: www.mariposatrust.org The Mariposa Trust offers support to anyone who has been affected by the loss of a child at any stage of pregnancy, at birth or in infancy. This is provided through remembrance services at Cathedrals, Minsters, Abbeys, and via a support service, which is accessed by over 50,000 people each week globally. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiny Life Area served: Northern Ireland Telephone: 028 9081 5050 Website: www.tinylife.org.uk They support parents who experience the birth of a premature, ill, or disabled baby. Family support services, specialist programmes and events. Email: email@example.com
Twins Trust Bereavement Support Service Area served: National Telephone: 0800 138 0509 Website: www.twinstrust.org/bereavement The Twins Trust Bereavement Support Service exists to support all parents and carers of twins, triplets or more who have died whether it was during or after pregnancy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zephyr's Area served: Nottingham and surrounding areas Telephone: 07915 995532 Website: www.zephyrsnottingham.org.uk Zephyr's - support for bereaved families touched by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby or child of any age. Their creative, and holistic approach is softly nurturing, inclusive, non judgemental and open to anyone in Nottingham county, and beyond. Their events and activities have included counselling, yoga, photography, crafts, social Saturdays, seasonal walks, weekly drop ins, creative writing, celebrations, and much more. Email: email@example.com