Scientific Paper Abstracts Originally Presented at the National Abortion Federation's Annual Meeting; April 23, 2007; Boston, Massachusetts

In This Article

Emotional Prophylaxis for Abortion Patients: A Pilot Study

Lisa L Littman, MD; Christina Zarcadoolas, PhD; Adam Jacobs, MD

Introduction: All reproductive events -- childbearing, miscarriage, infertility, abortion -- can be significant stressors in women's lives. However, women having abortions have to contend with additional factors that include stigma and the judgmental actions and attitudes of others. These society-based factors can negatively impact women's emotional well-being, serve as barriers to social and medical support, and put them at risk for receiving inappropriate and harmful counseling from organizations that seek to make abortion illegal. While it is unlikely that we can change this environment in the short term, perhaps we can improve the emotional resiliency of our patients.

The purpose of this study is to pilot a prophylactic intervention for post-abortion patients that addresses stigma, provides information about legitimate and harmful support services, and reinforces positive messages about why women make reproductive decisions.

Data-collection methods: This experimental, non-randomized study pilots an intervention for women presenting to the Mount Sinai Family Planning Panel for their post-operative visits after abortion. The intervention consisted of a video, a brochure and a discussion. The video consisted of a segment from "The Abortion Diaries" dealing with stigma. The brochure includes information about emotions, support and positive, validating messages including excerpts from the poem, "Women Know" by Anne Baker. In-depth interviews were used to assess patient response to the intervention.

Summary of results: All women asked (20/20) felt that this intervention was personally helpful to them. All (22/22) felt that the judgmental actions and attitudes of others were hurtful to women who have had abortions. All (22/22) said that the proposed intervention can help women "not let these actions and attitudes get to them so much." When twenty of the women were asked to choose the three points most important for women to know, the most frequently chosen answers were, "Hearing that other women have gone through this experience, too" (95%); "Positive messages about why women make the decision to have an abortion" (70%). When asked about timing -- when they thought it would be most useful for women to have this intervention -- there were a variety of responses. However, 90% (18/20) responded with answers that included times earlier than the post-op visit.

Conclusion: This pilot study shows that the studied prophylactic intervention holds promise for promoting women's emotional resiliency to the society-based threats to healthy coping after abortion. Respondents felt that this intervention was personally helpful to them and could improve women's resiliency to the judgmental actions and attitudes of others. Future research should be done to evaluate significant outcomes of the intervention. Information gained from this study can be used for the creation of prophylactic interventions for other reproductive events.

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