Women from all different walks of life come to our Long Island offices and make the decision to undergo medical and surgical abortions. Teenagers may feel uncomfortable and ill-equipped to raise a child. Others may not have the proper resources to raise the child in a safe environment. Women of all ages can have health complications that may put them (or the child) in serious danger. Factors like socioeconomic status, domestic situations, medical conditions and more can all influence this decision.
Regardless of the reason, it’s important to support someone before they receive an abortion, and after. Read on to learn about how you can be a supportive friend to someone who will or has undergone an abortion.
Don’t Be Dismissive
Most likely, it was incredibly difficult for your friend or family member to tell you about their abortion. As a friend, family member, or mentor, you should definitely respect that and don’t underestimate the burden. Understand that this is a strong indication of the strength of your relationship, and convey that through support.
Don’t Change Who You Are
Taking the leap in confiding in someone about an abortion means that they rely on your relationship. So, do your best to support them, without altering the fundamentals of that relationship.
While you may want to avoid broaching certain topics, do not change the dynamic of your relationship. Being supportive does not necessarily mean becoming overly emotional, or expecting her to be emotional. She is simply asking you to be there for her, in the way that she needs it.
Monitor Your Vocabulary
In everyday conversations, it’s easy to mistakenly refer to aborted embryos as “babies”. When spending time with somebody after their abortion, however, do not make this mistake.
Women who have moved forward with an abortion would not want to refer to the pregnancy as a baby. This emotionally charged term may bring out a sense of guilt, which is the last thing she needs. Instead, stick to medical terms like embryo or fetus. This will help these women who are currently mothers, or want to one day become mothers, remain comfortable during conversations.
Using the language that your friend uses will make her the most comfortable.
Ask Only Supportive Questions
After an abortion, many women will not want to think about the procedure. Being prompted by another individual to relive this moment is the last thing that she needs. So, asking questions about physical pain, or why she chose to receive the abortion, is inappropriate. Asking if she regrets receiving the procedure is also a step too far. Finally, refrain from asking her if she received a surgical or medical abortion.
Instead, ask questions that cater to her needs. Questions like “How do you feel?” are general enough that she can choose how to answer them. These questions also prioritize her feelings, rather than probing for information.
If she does not respond well to these questions, then follow the social cues, and change the subject.
Even women who are generally confident may have some sense of doubt about the procedure. In order to help her understand that she did make the right decision, be reassuring.
If she has divulged to you her reasons for receiving the abortion, then remind her of these factors. Hearing this from somebody else will help to confirm the legitimacy of this decision. Above all else, stress that this decision does not in any way make her a bad person.
Despite mixed feelings, most women who receive an abortion do not ultimately regret it.
Don’t Assume Anything
Making assumptions in such a sensitive situation will almost inevitably lead to a negative interaction. Remain conscious of the difficulty involved in her making this decision, and telling you about it.
Assuming that she has told others close to her (parents, siblings, or other friends) is an especially big mistake. Based on her own perception of those around her, she probably put great thought into who she should tell about the abortion.
Help Her With Practical Information
After an abortion, doctors will likely inform patients about what to expect in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, it’s somewhat natural for women to be nervous about upcoming symptoms. So, being a confident source of information for your friend is important.
First, it’s entirely possible for women to become pregnant again after an abortion. After the procedure, light bleeding and cramping is common. It’s also common for women (who are not in discomfort) to return to normal activities after about two days. Finally, most women have their regular period about 4-7 days after the procedure.
More than anything, your friend will probably need somebody to listen to her. Whether she wants to discuss the actual abortion experience, her feelings surrounding it, or another topic, you should be there for her. Regardless of what she has to say, be a good listener.
Conclusion – Stony Brook Women’s Health
When helping friends who have received an abortion, be sure to have an accepting attitude. At Stony Brook Women’s Health, our staff is committed to providing a comfortable environment, helpful information, and safe procedures.