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Women's reflections upon their past abortions: An exploration of how and why emotional reactions change over time

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Previous studies have argued that women's responses to abortion are similar to a linear grief reaction. The present study aimed to explore how women reflect upon their past abortions in the longer term. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the transcripts of ten interviews with women who had had an abortion between 1 and 9 years ago. The results showed that although a few women reported a linear pattern of change in their emotions, many also described different patterns including persistent upset that remained ongoing many years after the event, negative re-appraisal some time after the event and a positive appraisal at the time of the event with no subsequent negative emotions. The results also provide some insights into this variability. Those who described how they had never been upset or experienced a linear recovery also tended to conceptualise the foetus as less human, reported having had more social support and described either a belief that abortions are supported by society or an ability to defend against a belief that society is judgemental. In contrast, patterns of emotional change involving persistent upset or negative appraisal were entwined with a more human view of the foetus, a lack of social support and a belief that society is either overly judgemental or negates the impact that an abortion can have on a woman. To conclude, women's responses to their abortion do not always follow the suggested reactions of grief, but are varied and located within both the personal and social context.
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Keywords: Abortion; emotional change; qualitative; termination of pregnancy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK 2: Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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