An unwanted pregnancy can be an overwhelming experience. Also, having a baby with your health at stake is challenging. People have abortions for many reasons, from a lack of financing, wanting to remain child-free, health reasons, or sexual assault. Every reason is legitimate, but in most societies, abortion is seen as taboo and shameful. The stigma facing parents who get abortion treatment makes the treatment that much more stressful. If a person you know is going to get or has had one, there are ways you can show support to safeguard their mental and physical strength.
What happens after an abortion?
Abortion is the treatment procedure that removes an unwanted pregnancy through medication or surgery. It can be emotionally draining and confusing. When done through surgery, it can cause bleeding or cramping while your body heals. Taking an abortion pill carries a few risks. The pill can be unsuccessful, and the pregnancy still grows. Some of the pregnancy tissue can remain in the uterus. It can also lead to blood clots in the uterus. There can be excessive bleeding. And some patients can experience allergies to the medication.
After taking the pill, patients should see their doctor if there is no bleeding within 24 hours. If the bleeding is so heavy that it soaks two maxi pads within an hour, you should seek medical attention. Also, if there are large blood clots for more than two hours, pain that won’t go away even after taking painkillers, a fever, and stomach upsets that last more than 24 hours. Other potential side effects include high blood pressure, joint pain, and fluid retention.
Like any other medical treatment, abortion needs time for healing. It also needs compassion, patience, support, and understanding for patients.
How to provide support
1. Don’t ask invasive questions
Statistics show at least 121 million unwanted pregnancies every year. At least 61% of them end up terminated. With so many people needing access to safe and affordable abortions, this treatment option should be readily available to those in need. Abortion is like a last resort in contraception. Asking a patient about why they need an abortion is invasive and only adds to any potential anxiety.
When they mention that they are pregnant and it wasn’t planned, don’t ask them questions about what they plan to do. Don’t assume they will have an abortion or carry the pregnancy to term. Be there as a sounding board where they can bounce off their feelings and fears and eventually come to a most comfortable resolution.
2. Offer to help research resources
Wide-scale abortion is inaccessible in most countries. Some countries only allow abortions in cases of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. Others only allow it with spousal or parental consent, while others restrict abortion entirely. Depending on the country, there are abortion resources for people in need. Offer to help research these organisations, down to the protocols the companies observe. Countries like the US and Mexico have laws that differ state by state, so travelling to get one may be necessary. Help them know what to pack and how to remain safe during travel.
Read also: Could The Restrictions Of Abortion Rights In The United States Affect Other Countries?
3. Avoid crisis pregnancy centres or anti-reproductive rights institutions
Centres like these often pretend to be an organisation to help people who have an unplanned pregnancies. They then fill people with shame and fear. Many of them are affiliated with a religion, and while they can shame a patient into carrying a pregnancy to term, they offer no monetary or childcare assistance. They don’t provide non-judgmental support for people facing an unwanted pregnancy.
4. Help reduce the stress
Wait times before a procedure can cause the most anxiety to patients. Before then, you can provide ways to pass the time that keep their minds off things until it’s time. Healthy distractions like outings, picnics, crafting, or other hobbies you enjoy are a great way to keep their mental health stable.
Read also: Playing Games: A Great Mental Health Boost
5. Offer to accompany them
Medical abortions include getting medication which can be a fairly straightforward procedure. But it can still be stressful. Surgical abortions are even more so. Like every surgery, patients may need loved ones around. If they want to go it alone, help them organise for it by helping them pack, arranging transport or being there during recovery. Providing a care package for the side effects of abortion pills or the recovery process can be helpful.
6. Keep checking on them
Many people often assume that once patients have recovered from a medical procedure, they’re fine. But providing support means checking in even after. Listen to them after the abortion and be around any way you can, whether offering to run their backs or helping them with chores. If they want to be alone, offer to be available if they change their minds.
7. If you can’t be there for them, don’t be judgemental
Situations differ for every woman. If you just had a successful planned pregnancy, showing up for your loved one who plans to get one may be difficult. Offer to listen without trying to change their mind. If you can’t find it in yourself to be supportive, don’t ice them out or be judgmental and hurtful. Respect their autonomy and freedom to choose. You need your friend more than they need your unacceptance. Make it clear with kindness that you can’t talk or think about it.
8. Take care of yourself
Inasmuch as it’s important to be there for your friend, it’s important to know what you need. Work through your own feelings. If the situation makes you feel sad, angry, or stressed, providing emotional support may trigger a mental health crisis. Talk with someone to get your support and be honest with yourself. You may do more harm than good if you add to your friend’s stress over the procedure. Know where your limits are and be supportive to that extent.
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