Many women facing an unplanned pregnancy are unable to parent a child — whether for financial reasons, being in the middle of their education, or simply not being at the right time in their lives. These women have to make the difficult decision between their other two options — adoption and abortion — and may find themselves wondering: is “giving a baby up” for adoption better for mental health than abortion?

Both abortion and adoption are emotionally difficult choices for a woman to make, and every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy will have to consider her own individual feelings to make the decision that works best for her. Adoption and abortion are two options that many pregnant women choose but, despite popular belief, neither is “easy.”

It is important for women facing an unplanned pregnancy to understand the effects of both adoption and abortion in order to decide the right action to take.

Psychological Effects of Choosing Adoption

While deciding between adoption and abortion is an incredibly personal decision, it can also be helpful to understand the effects that each one can have. While both options are viable alternatives to parenting, they each leave emotional effects that can be difficult to overcome. The psychological effects of choosing adoption include:

  • The stages of grief and loss: Both adoption and abortion can cause women to experience a grieving process similar to those suffering through the loss of a loved one. These stages include denial, anger, shock, depression, fear, guilt, and acceptance. Even when a woman feels confident in her adoption decision, it is normal to experience this grieving period. Free, 24/7 counseling is available to birth parents during and after the adoption process to help them cope with these feelings.
  • Parental identity: Some birth parents experience identity issues after placing a child for adoption. Their status as parents may not be acknowledged by family and friends, and they may view their own identity differently as they continue with an open adoption or go on to have other children whom they raise.
  • Moving forward: Birth parents can reach acceptance over their situation even though they may continue to feel grief for their loss again in the future. The process of finding closure and moving forward from placing a child for adoption often includes allowing time to grieve, finding support, writing about your experience, or seeking additional counseling.

While it’s undeniable that adoption is an emotionally difficult decision to make, not all of the psychological effects of adoption are negative. In fact, there are many benefits for birth parents’ mental health:

  • Empowerment: Expectant mothers are in charge of making all the important decisions in their adoption process, which can give them a sense of control over their situation.
  • Pride: It takes a loving and selfless person to put her child’s needs above her own. Birth mothers can be proud of their decision, of the child they brought into the world and of the family they helped create.
  • Reassurance: Today, the vast majority of adoptions are open, which means birth mothers stay in touch with their children and adoptive parents through phone calls, texts, pictures, letters, visits and more. Seeing their child growing up happy, healthy and loved can provide reassurance and relief for women that they made the best possible choice for their baby.
  • 24/7 counseling and support: women who choose adoption have access to 24/7 counseling and support during their pregnancy and after adoption through American Adoptions. Trained counselors are always available to help them process their feelings.

Psychological Effects of Choosing Abortion

Similar to adoption, there is no “right” way to feel after an abortion — and a woman who chooses to have one will likely experience a range of emotions afterwards. Just as women experience different physical side effects post-abortion, they may experience a range of psychological effects, too. These can include:

  • The stages of grief and loss: Just like with adoption, a woman may experience the stages of grief, including denial, anger, shock, depression, fear, guilt and acceptance — even if abortion was the best choice for her situation.
  • Confusion and mixed emotions: Women may feel regret, guilt, depression, hope, relief or empowerment after having an abortion — but even more often, women experience a confusing mix of these positive and negative emotions.
  • Loneliness and loss of self-confidence: Many women who choose to have an abortion experience feelings of loneliness or isolation afterwards. Sometimes, women feel the need to isolate themselves from friends or family in an effort to keep their abortion a “secret” or hidden from others. While suppressing your true feelings post-abortion may seem like an easier way to cope, it can actually lead to more difficulties accepting your decision and moving forward with confidence and hope for the future; it’s important to confide in people you trust or seek counseling to help you process any challenging feelings after an abortion.
  • Anxiety and Depression: While it is common for women to suppress negative feelings after an abortion, doing so can also lead to a period of post-abortion depression. While feelings of depression aren’t very common, it is possible to feel depressed or anxious after having an abortion. Signs of depression after abortion may include intense feelings of grief, difficulty sleeping, paranoia, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. If you are having thoughts of suicide after abortion, seek help right away. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Moving on: Coping with an abortion can be made easier by reflecting on your experience through writing, setting new goals, giving back to the community, focusing your energy on things that you love, and talking to a trusted friend, family member, or professional about your experience. Long-term mental issues following an abortion are rare, and it is possible to reach a place of acceptance for your decision.

Adoption and abortion can both be difficult emotional experiences, as they each carry their own psychological and emotional side effects. All of these feelings are normal and will vary from person to person. Ultimately, effects on mental health depend on the individual and her own feelings about adoption, abortion, and her pregnancy.

Whether you choose adoption or abortion, the decision should be informed, carefully considered, and most importantly, your own. No matter what a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy may choose, there are resources to help her cope with the psychological effects.

If you are experiencing difficulty making the decision to choose abortion or adoption or want to get options counseling from a trained social worker, call this free, confidential, 24/7 hotline: 1-800-ADOPTION.

To learn more about your unplanned pregnancy options with American Adoptions, call 1-800-ADOPTION today or request free adoption information.