Recognizing Post Abortion Syndrome

by "Ann", a PAS counselor
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Post-abortion syndrome is not officially recognized by the psychiatric community as an actual malady. Fortunately there have been several psychologists who have done extensive work in this area. I would like to point out that not everyone who has an abortion will develop post-abortion syndrome. However, there do seem to be some common patterns of behavior for many of the women who have experienced abortion. Even if you do not fit the criteria for post-abortion syndrome, I think you will be able to see yourself in some of the common fears, anger, shame, and regrets outlined in this course of study.

The anger, fear, shame and regret is enough to deeply affect your life in negative ways and produce behavior that is often self-defeating or destructive. Deeper understanding of who you are and why you think and act in certain ways can be beneficial but healing comes through God in Jesus Christ. We will be examining both the psychological as well as the spiritual aspects of your experience.

The criteria for PAS has been defined by Anne Speckhard Ph.D. and Vincent Rue Ph.D. It was first recognized that many of the things that post-abortion women were reporting appeared to mirror the things that the Vietnam vets were demonstrating. In the DLM, you wig find post-traumatic stress outlined to help professionals deal with the problems the vets were encountering. Dr. Speckhard & Sir. Rue have adapted this to help us identify post-abortion syndrome.

  1. Stressor:

    The abortion experience is beyond the range of usual human experience. The trauma is sufficient to cause significant symptoms of re-experience, avoidance, and impacted grieving.

  2. Re-Experience:

    The abortion experience is re-experienced in one of the following ways:

    1. Recurrent and intrusive recollection of the abortion experience.
    2. Recurrent dreams of the abortion or of the unborn child.
    3. Sudden acting or feeling as if the abortion was recurring.
    4. Intense psychological stress at exposure to events that symbolize or resemble the abortion experience. (e.g. pregnant mothers, clinics, subsequent pregnancies)
    5. Anniversary reaction. (date of the abortion or projected due date)

  3. Avoidance:

    Persistent avoidance of the stimuli associated with the abortion trauma or numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the abortion), as indicated by at least three of the following:

    1. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with the abortion.
    2. Efforts to avoid activities, situations, or information that might arouse recollection of the abortion.
    3. Inability to recall the abortion experience or an important aspect of the abortion.
    4. Markedly reduced interest in significant activities.
    5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others.
    6. Withdrawal in relationships and / or reduced communication.
    7. Restricted range of affect, (e.g. unable to have loving and tender feelings)
    8. Sense of foreshortened future, (e.g. does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a long life)

  4. Associated Features:

    Persistent symptoms (not present before the abortion) as indicated by at least two of the following:

    1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
    2. Irritability or outbursts of anger.
    3. Difficulty concentrating.
    4. Hypervigilence.
    5. Exaggerated startle response to intrusive recollection or re-experiencing of the abortion trauma.
    6. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to the events or situations that symbolize or resemble some aspect of the abortion. (e.g. breaking out in profuse sweating upon pelvic examinations or hearing vacuum pump sounds)
    7. Depression and suicidal ideation.
    8. Guilt about surviving when the unborn child did not.
    9. Self devaluation and/or inability to forgive one's self.
    10. Secondary substance abuse.

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Posted 9 Sep 2000.

Copyright 1996 by Ohio Right to Life
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