Purpose: To explore and describe the long-term postabortion experience as lived by women, at least 5 years after a first-trimester-induced abortion.
Methods: This phenomenological study used semistructured interviews and constant-comparison analysis. Stories of 17 women were recorded on audio tape, transcribed verbatim, coded, and analyzed.
Results: Women who had induced abortions represented several ethnic groups, religions, and occupations, and were single, married, or divorced. The average number of years from abortion to interview was 18.9 (range 6-31 years). The age range at first abortion was 14 to 43, and at interview was 23 to 60 years of age. Five themes emerged within the women's stories: Making the Decision, Coping With the Memories, Gaining Perspective, Seeking Help, and Recognizing Its Worth. Most women who participated in this study were able to integrate the abortion experience into their lives, and had found meaning in the abortion experience.
Clinical implications: This study provides yet more reasons why nursing should encourage women to prevent unplanned pregnancies through fertility control. Women in this study described many life-changing experiences, both positive and negative, because of an abortion. Therefore, preabortion counseling should be sensitive and include information about possible long-term effects. Postabortion support should acknowledge spiritual issues, and include steps women can take to help heal themselves, such as grief counseling and mourning rituals when appropriate.