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Post Abortion Stress Syndrome: Does it affect you?

Here are some general questions that can help you determine if you are suffering from PASS. There's an electronic survey or you can just see the questions listed below. At the end of the questions is more information about PASS, and how to find help if you do have PASS symptoms.

  1. Do you find yourself struggling to turn off feelings connected to your abortion, perhaps telling yourself over and over again to forget about it, and just get on with your life?

  2. Do you find yourself avoiding books, magazines and television programs that deal with the subject of babies, pregnant women or abortion?

  3. Do you avoid stores or the sections in stores that have infant/maternity related items?

  4. Are you affected by physical reminders of your abortion (babies, pregnant women, etc.)? Are you uncomfortable around pregnant women or children?
  5. Are you uncomfortable discussing pregnancy, or babies?

  6. Does having your period upset you?

  7. Does the sight of blood bother you more than it might have in the past?

  8. Do you get nervous or avoid doctors and/or doctor's offices?

  9. Are you more bothered by any invasive medical procedure now, dental work, gyn appointments, any type of surgery, ect?

  10. Did or would you lie about having an abortion, or the number of abortions you've had, to a Doctor, or to family or friends? For example not telling or denying you've had an abortion, or saying it was a 'miscarriage', or saying it was for 'medical reasons', when it wasn't?

  11. Are you bothered by certain sounds, like vaccuum cleaners, or other machinery that makes loud noises?

  12. Are there certain times of the year you find yourself depressed, sick or accident-prone, especially around the anniversary date of the abortion or would-be birth date?

  13. Are you resentful and unforgiving toward anyone because of his or her involvement (or lack of involvement!) in your abortion - boyfriend, husband, parents, other friends, or the medical personnel who performed your abortion?

  14. Do you find yourself not using birth control now? Are you putting yourself in a situation where you could find yourself faced with another unwanted pregnancy? (You may be subconsciously leaving yourself vulnerable, hoping to get pregnant again, to replace the aborted child)

  15. Do you have trouble with emotional intimacy or relationships since your abortion? With physical intimacy?

  16. Do you avoid sex now, or have you had have trouble with sex(pain, difficulty with orgasm or enjoyment of sex) since the abortion?

  17. Are you practicing irresponsible sexual behavior now, perhaps showing an indifference as to who you have sex with?

  18. Do you think about having a 'replacement baby', especially with the same man, and think that all the guilt will go away if you get pregnant again, and 'keep it' this time?

  19. Are you still in a relationship with the partner you had the abortion with, and unwilling to end it because then it would feel like the abortion was 'for nothing'?

  20. Did you marry, or rush into marriage with the man you had the abortion with, to 'justify' having the abortion?

  21. Do you have an unhealthy obsession with excelling at work or school, to help 'justify' your abortion?

  22. Have you experienced periods of prolonged depression since your abortion?

  23. Have you had any suicidal thoughts or attempts?

  24. Have you had an unexplained weight gain or loss since your abortion?

  25. Do you find yourself crying more easily, and more frequently than usual?

  26. Has any drug or alcohol use occurred or become more frequent since the abortion?

  27. Have you started or increased any self-harming behaviors (cutting, anorexia/bulimia ect)?

  28. Do you have sleeping problems? (difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or wanting to sleep too much?)

  29. Are you troubled with dreams and/or nightmares about babies, dreams of a child in danger, or other upsetting dream related to the abortion experience?
  30. Do you have trouble with anxiety and/or panic attacks?

  31. Do you have any occurences of 'intrusion' (involuntarily re-experiencing the abortion situation - seeing the clinic, the room, the recovery room in flashbacks) or hallucinations (for example, hearing a baby cry when there is not one around)?

  32. Are you able to talk about your abortion? When choosing to share about your abortion, are you overcome with strong feelings?

  33. Do you sometimes feel 'guilty' or 'remorseful' about your abortion?

  34. If you have children now, do you smother them with your love or overprotect them? Do you worry about them being hurt?

  35. If you have children now, do you have problems with feeling distant from them, and 'unable to bond' with them?

  36. If you do not have children, do you fear that you will never be able to have them? (either because of physical harm resulting from the abortion or because 'God' or 'karma' will punish you for your abortion, and won't allow you a baby later?)

  37. Have you found yourself preoccupied with thoughts of your aborted child lately?

  38. Do you notice other babies/children, and think that your child might have looked like them?

  39. Do you notice other babies/children, and think that they are "the same age as your aborted child would be right now?"

  40. (if your abortion was recent) Do you notice pregnant women, and judge where they are in their pregnancy, as related to where you would be in yours right now?

  41. Do you get a 'funny feeling' in your stomach, at the thought of discussing/debating pro-life or pro-choice issues? Do you purposely avoid any discussion or information to do with these issues?

  42. Do you tend to look at your life in terms of "before" and "after" the abortion?

  43. Has your self-concept or self-esteem changed since your abortion?

  44. Do you have trouble making decisions since the abortion?

  45. Did your relationship to or concept of 'God', or 'Karma', or 'Fate' change after your abortion?

Information about PASS
If you answered three or more of the above questions "yes", or positively on the multiple answer ones and especially if you felt angry, or upset by any of the questions or had an emotional or physical response to any of them, you may be suffering from a problem known as Post Abortion Stress Syndrome.
PASS is a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which develops when a woman is unable to work through her emotional responses resulting from the trauma of an abortion. It's not very accepted to be pro-choice, have an abortion, and then find out it affected you more than you expected. I have yet to find much 'official support' from the prochoice community for this subject. My personal experience with one of my prochoice friends (when I wanted to talk about how upset I was getting about the abortion) was this:
"Didn't you think about that first? You knew what you were doing, didn't you? If you weren't sure you wanted an abortion, why did you have one?" and then "Don't tell anyone you are upset, you don't want to give the prolifers ANY ammunition, do you?"
Now that was great! I was so hurt by her reaction to my revealing that I was having a hard time. I didn't care about 'prolife', or 'prochoice' at the time. I just knew that I was hurting, and I wanted to talk about it, and wanted some support.
This general lack of acknowlegdement that not every woman who has an abortion keeps feeling 'relief' may lead women to bottle their emotions up, and not talk or think about how she is feeling. Her emotions may be repressed after the abortion, and the natural feelings of grief, loss or sadness she could feel might be 'stuffed', or denied.

PASS may occur within a few hours following an abortion, or it may not surface until many years later! Women may be afraid to talk about it, may feel great shame about their abortion, and may not even realize that it is affecting them. Women are even afraid to talk about their abortion to their doctor or counselor. Some women do fine immediately after their abortion, then if they later have trouble with miscarriages or infertility, PASS may affect them. Many women feel that miscarriages and infertility are 'punishment' for an abortion. (and of course this is not true!) Most 'studies' report that women feel 'relief' after an abortion. That may be true initially, but fewer studies have been done on how women feel later. My studies are trying to help in that field of research.

Okay, so you think you might have PASS? What should you do? You can start with checking out the Healing Room, for ideas on how to recover. You can read the information on our "Structured Recovery Groups" and see if you are interested in participating in them. You can also check the message boards, where you can read what others are doing and feeling, and where you can talk about how you feel, and try coming to the chats.

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