How To Support A Friend Who Had An Abortion

If she has spoken out to you about her abortion, she thinks you are close. Respect her privacy, drop any assumptions and support her in every way you can. We spoke with a a psychologist and a gynecologist to help you show up for a friend.

By D Tejaswi
25 May 2022

The stigma around abortions is real, which is why many women choose not to speak about their experience. It can be both traumatic and liberating but either way society is rarely just with the women who have under gone the procedure. So if someone close to you has shared their abortion story, its imperetive that you leave aside any assumptions and support the individual no matter the circumstances of the procedure.


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Incidenctly, 33 in every 100 pregnancies in India get aborted, finds Lancet Global Health, 2015. It is quite possible that you know someone who has had an abortion (nearly half of the pregnancies are unintended, says the journal). Also, you might know someone who experienced the spontaneous abortion as approximately 15 per cent of all clinically recognised pregnancies result in spontaneous loss of pregnancy.


“While abortion may be necessary and generally beneficial, it exacts a psychological price,” notes Sage Open Medicine, 2018, as quoted by Julius Fogel, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, a long time advocate of abortion who performed tens of thousands of abortions in his lifetime. The journal further says that some women feel upset, anxious or sad post-abortion. In the case of spontaneous abortion, a woman worries that something she did caused the pregnancy loss.


On the other hand, some women feel relieved after an abortion. A study conducted on 882 participants mentioned in Archives of general psychiatry, finds that most women do not experience psychological problems or regret their abortion two years post-abortion, but some do. Those who feel elevated levels of grief, stress, or sense of loss are the women with a prior history of depression, notes the study.


Nevertheless, reproductive justice advocates say that having a friend or someone near to show unconditional kindness, and support the woman in working through all her feelings and emotions helps her recover fast and feel better.


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If you are wondering where and how to start caring for a friend or someone dear, here are four tips shared by a gynecologist and a psychologist:


1. Frame your conversations right

Don’t make statements that pass on judgements. Be there for her, take some time, look at the gravity of situation, and ask open ended questions such as “How do you feel about it?” Listen to what she says, and if possible plan a physical meeting. Physical meetings allow you to display open body language such as firmly holding the hands, or a gentle warm hug, things that may help help her feel better. “When you talk, never say anything on what should have ideally happened or how better she could have dealt with the situation,” says Dr Savita Date Menon, Clinical Psychologist, Hyderabad.


2. It’s not about what you believe or think

Abortion is one such issue where your believes might be different from your friend’s. See that your differences don’t come in the path but if it begins to matter humbly admit that you won’t be able to contribute opinions but be there for help at every possible place like a hospital, medical store or a hobby class (incase she needs a distraction post abortion), says Dr Menon.


3. Find out what medical care she needs

If your friend underwent an abortion before telling you, understand she intended it to be a private experience. Don’t make her uncomfortable by asking questions such as “you should have informed me earlier,” says Dr Menon. Instead, your next step should be to ask her where she needs assistance. For example, you can support and care for her by doing some of her home chores such as a supermarket visit. “You can also see that she gets ample of rest and eats food rich in calcium, proteins, iron and B vitamins,” says Dr Anuradha Panda, Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad.

But, in case your friend tells you about her unintentended pregnancy as soon as she discovers, the most important thing to do is to be there for her. Ask her how she is feeling. In case she decides to abort, learn how advanced the pregnancy is and find a provider near by. The MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) act in India allows for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks. Help your friend reach a hospital or clinic and if she is comfortable get involved with her permission. Check with doctor on the type of abortion that is safe for your friend. You can also enquire other details such as duration of procedure, cost, medication, follow up visits to reduce her legwork.


4. Watch out for any warning signs, or medical complications

“Serious complications post abortion are quite uncommon. You have a very low risk of infection if you take the prescribed antibiotics,” says Dr Panda. However you could be there with your friend to watch out any warning signs such as prolonged and heavy bleeding (bleeding which soaks more than 2 pads in an hour), cramping for more than five days, fever, a smelly vaginal discharge, extended abdominal pain or discomfort. If you find any of the above symptoms, you should assist your friend see a doctor or go to the nearest hospital right away.




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