Welcome to the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre
Post Abortion Stress



This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice.






Go HERE if you already had an abortion

This pregnancy center offers many services to women facing unplanned pregnancies including free pregnancy tests, non-medical pregnancy consultations, and education about abortion procedures. This center does not offer abortions or abortion referrals. 

Topics Covered in this Section (click them)

> Understand Your Pregnancy

> Learn about Abortion Procedures

> Pregnancy Signs

> Consider the immediate risks of abortion

> Definitions

> Consider Long Term Risks of Abortion

> Photos of your Baby's Development

> Psychological Impact

> Parenting

> Adoption

> Help is Available

> References

Know the Facts

Important Disclaimer:
This centre does not offer abortion services or abortion referrals. 

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is hard.  Fear, confusion, and anger are just some of the feelings that you may be experiencing.  You have the right to be fully informed about this important decision. You decide. You deserve to know the facts.


The following information will help you understand more about your pregnancy, about the new life developing inside you, and abortion.  You have options.


Understanding Your Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. Some common symptoms of early pregnancy include a missed period, nausea, breast tenderness, frequent urination, tiredness and mood swings.1

Most pregnancy tests are very reliable. However, to diagnose and confirm that you are pregnant, a visit to a physician or other appropriate healthcare provider will be necessary.

An ultrasound exam can confirm the status of your pregnancy. This information is important whether you are considering abortion or continuing with your pregnancy.

Should I take the Morning After Pill?
The morning after pill is not a quick fix - it's a little more complicated ... Do you know the answers to these questions:

  • Am I already pregnant from a previous sexual experience?
  • Has this drug been adequately tested for long term side effects?
  • Can this pill end a life?

    Understanding the way the morning after pill works and its side effects is a step that helps you make a healthy decision for your body.

Should I be concerned about having an abortion?
Abortion is not a simple medical procedure.  For many women, it is a life changing event with significant physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.  Some women who struggle with past abortions say that they wish they had been told all of the facts about abortion beforehand.

What can I do about people pressuring me?

You have rights; no one can force or pressure you to have an abortion. This is your decision to make and you will be the one most affected by the consequences.  If your partner, husband or parents are pressuring you to make a quick decision, explain your needs and try to involve them in counselling to explore your positive options.  You have the right to continue with this pregnancy.


Can I have a baby and still live my life?

You may see this unplanned pregnancy as a major roadblock in your life.  It may encourage you to know that many women in the same situation have found the resources and courage they need to make positive choices and live without regrets.

Understand Your Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. Some common symptoms of early pregnancy include a missed period, nausea, breast tenderness, frequent urination, tiredness, and mood swings. 1

Most pregnancy tests are very reliable. However, to diagnose and confirm that you are pregnant, a visit to a physician or other appropriate health care provider will be necessary.

An ultrasound exam can confirm the status of your pregnancy. This information is important whether you are considering abortion or continuing with your pregnancy. Many pregnancy centers provide access to ultrasounds at no charge.


Pregnancy Signs
Missed Period
Nausea and Vomiting
Breast Tenderness
Frequent Urination
Feeling Tired
Mood Swings

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Often, when considering abortion, some well-meaning people try to downplay the reality of fetal development because they do not want to disturb the person considering abortion.  No one wants to add pain to a difficult situation, but everyone deserves to know truth that empowers them to make an informed decision. Groups such as the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada suggest that a photo of a fetal sac at six weeks gestation be shown to women considering abortion (see below). From the outside, the fetal sac looks like a "lump of cells." Our experience with clients is that women want to know what is going on inside the sac - at what level of development is this little life now? It is also very important to show not only fetal development at five or six weeks, but from 7-12 weeks (which is the time frame in which most abortions happen). 


Here is the image of the fetal sac at six weeks (on the left) that some say is sufficient information for those considering abortion and then a look inside that same fetal sac at six weeks (on the right). Click on the image on the right for a quick video of what is happening at 6 weeks:


6 Week Fetal Sac

Click Me ^

We believe you want to know accurate information about fetal development:

Fetal Development2

 Day 1

When fertilization occurs, the baby's features, including sex, hair and eye color are determined.2

 6 Weeks LMP (last menstrual period)

The baby's heart begins pumping just 22 days after fertilization which can be easily seen on ultrasound.3
(see video above)

2D Ultrasound picture of baby at 9 weeks since the LMP (7 weeks after fertilization)
9-10 Weeks LMP The tiny embryo grows rapidly, and by 9.5 weeks since LMP, has distinct fingers and can hiccup.4
Illustration of a baby at 9 weeks since the LMP (7 weeks after fertilization)5

13 weeks
12-13 weeks LMP

Unborn babies begin forming unique fingerprints by the time they reach 12 weeks since the LMP.


5 months
22 Weeks LMP
The inner ear is fully developed and the baby can respond to a growing range of sounds.8
Photo (above) of baby in the uterus at 22 weeks since the LMP (20 weeks after fertilization)

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Emergency Contraception
It is important to understand what happens inside a woman's body when a pregnancy begins. A number of years ago, the medical community redefined the beginning of pregnancy from the time of fertilization to when an embryo implants in the uterus. However, the scientific reality is that when the sperm and egg unite and fertilization occurs, the genetic make-up of a unique human is established, including gender, hair and eye color and to some extent, personality and intelligence.9

Only eight out of one hundred women will become pregnant after a single act of intercourse in mid-cycle (when ovulation occurs).10 How likely is it that you could get pregnant right now? Learn the facts before exposing your body to artificial hormones.

This new individual continues to develop during the next week while it travels to the uterus and implants. Although clearly alive, some disagree about when this human life becomes a person. All forms of emergency contraception have the potential to prevent the new life from implanting. This is not a contraceptive effect, but abortive, resulting in the embryo's death.11

1. Plan B One-Step12
Plan B One StepTM (also known as the "morning-after pill) is intended to prevent pregnancy after known or suspected contraceptive failure, unprotected intercourse or forced sex. It is a single pill that contains large amounts of levonorgestrel, a progestin hormone found in some birth control pills. It is recommended to be taken within 72 hours of sex. It may work by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. It won't disrupt an implanted pregnancy, but may prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus and continuing to develop, which is a form of early abortion.

Side effects may include changes in periods, nausea, lower abdominal pain, tiredness, headache and dizziness.13 If your period is more than a week late, you may be pregnant. Plan B One-StepTM should not be taken during pregnancy nor used as a routine form of birth control.14

Women who experience severe abdominal pain after taking the drug may have an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and should get immediate help.15

A systematic review of 14 studies about emergency contraception (ED) (a total of over 13,000 women) concluded that increased access increases its use, but was not shown to reduce unintended pregnancy rates.16 This study also said that Plan B's effectiveness is not precisely known, but is significantly lower than the original estimates.

There are no long-term studies on the safety of current forms of EC if used frequently over long periods of time.17

2. ella®18
ella® (ulipristal) is an FDA-approved emergency contraceptive for use within 5 days of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. It is to be used only once during a menstrual cycle. If used as directed, ella® is reported to reduce the chance of pregnancy but is not effective in every case.19 Ella may reduce the chance of pregnancy by preventing or postponing ovulation. It also may also work by preventing an embryo from implanting in the uterus, which is a form of early abortion.20 ella® is a chemical cousin to the abortion pill Mifeprex. Both share the progesterone-blocking effect of disrupting the embryo's attachment to the womb, causing its death.21 Ella's impact on existing human pregnancies was not tested. However, ella did cause abortions in pregnant animals, including monkeys, and carries the same potential in humans.22

The most common adverse reactions of ella® include headache, nausea, stomach (abdominal) pain, menstrual cramps, tiredness and dizziness.23 Women who experience abdominal pain after using ella® should be evaluated right away for an ectopic pregnancy. Ella may not be as effective if taken with certain drugs, or may change the effectiveness of certain drugs.24 Much is unknown about the drug, including its effect on women who are under 18, pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding.25

Learn about Abortion Procedures

1st Trimester Medical Abortion Methods

Mifeprex/Mifepristone ("The Abortion Pill")

This drug is FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved for use in women up to 49 days after their last menstrual period. However, it is commonly used "off label" up to 63 days and even beyond.26 The FDA-approved procedure usually requires three office visits. On the first visit, the woman is given pills to swallow (mifepristone) that cause the death of the embryo. Two days later, if the abortion has not occurred, she is given a second drug to swallow (misoprostol) which causes cramping that expels the baby.27 If she is beyond 8 weeks LMP, it is possible that she may see identifiable parts expelled. The last visit is to determine if the procedure has been completed.


  • Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding lasts for an average of 9-16 days; 1 in 100 women bleed enough to require surgery (D&C) to stop the bleeding.28
  • Infection: According to the FDA,29 "Serious infection has resulted in death in a very small number of cases; in most of these cases misoprostol was used in the vagina." The FDA recommends that anyone who "feels sick" with weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, with or without fever, more than 24 hours after taking misoprostol should seek immediate medical attention. The FDA has not established the safety of off-label methods, which include using misoprostaol in the cheek or vaginally and and many of the reported deaths were associated with these alternative methods.30
  • Undiagnosed ectopic (tubal) pregnancy: This abortion pill will work in the case of ectopic pregnancy where the embryo lodges outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube). If not diagnosed early, there could be a risk of the tube bursting, internal hemorrhage, and death in some cases.31
  • Failed abortion: It doesn't always work
    • At 7 weeks from LMP, anywhere from 3-8% of women will fail to abort, depending upon the regimen used.32
    • When used beyond 7 weeks, the failure rate increases significantly.33
    • A surgical abortion us usually done to complete a failed medical abortion.34
  • Risk of fetal malformations: Research links the use of misoprostol during the first trimester with certain types of birth defects when the pregnancy continues after the regimen is used.35
  • Continuation of pregnancy: Women who change their minds after taking just the first pill(s) (mifepristone) of a medical abortion and want to try to continue their pregnancies may call "The Abortion Pill Reversal" at 877.558.0333 and or visit their website at: abortionpillreversal.com or seek the help of an obstetrician.

This drug is FDA-approved for treating certain cancers and rheumatoid arthritis, but is used off-label to treat ectopic pregnancies and to induce abortion. It works by stopping the growth of rapidly dividing cells. It is used up to 49 days of pregnancy and given orally or by injection. Three to seven days after the methotrexate is taken, misoprostol (the second medication also used in "the abortion pill" method) is used vaginally.
Side effects of methotrexate include diarrhea, mouth ulcers, nausea, abdominal distress, fatigue, chills, fever and dizziness. There is the risk of severe drug interactions with certain medications including ibuprofen and aspirin.

Misoprostol only
This form of medical abortion uses only the second drug given in "the abortion pill" method. It is typically inserted vaginally, requires repeated doses and has a significantly higher failure rate than "the abortion pill" method. It is associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and potential birth defects in pregnancies that continue.37

1st Trimester Surgical Abortion Methods

First Trimester Suction Abortion About 4-15 Weeks After the Last Menstrual Period (LMP)38
This surgical abortion is done throughout the first trimester. Varying degrees of pain control are offered ranging from local anesthetic (typically) to full general anesthesia (not usually available). For very early pregnancies (4-7 weeks LMP), after local anesthetic is given, a long, thin tube is inserted into the uterus which is then attached to a manual suction device and the embryo is suctioned out.

Late in the first trimester, the cervix needs to be opened wider because the fetus is larger. The cervix may be softened the day before using medication placed in the vagina and/or slowly stretched open using thin bundles made of seaweed inserted into the cervix. The day of the procedure, the cervix may need further stretching using metal dilating rods. This can be painful, so local anesthesia is typically used. Next, the doctor inserts a stiff plastic tube into the uterus and applies suction by either an electric or manual vacuum device. The suction pulls the fetus' body apart and out of the uterus. The doctor may also use a loop-shaped tool, called a curette, to scrape any remaining fetal parts out of the uterus.

2nd Trimester Methods

The majority of second trimester abortions are performed using this method. The cervix must be opened wider than in a first trimester abortion because the fetus is larger.  Sometimes laminaria and/or vaginal medications are placed in the cervical opening the night before to soften the cervix.40 Up to about 16 weeks gestation, the procedure is similar to the first trimester one (with the following addition).  After the cervix is stretched open and the uterine contents suctioned out, any remaining fetal parts are removed with a forceps (grasping tool).  A curette (a looped shaped tool) may also be used to scrape out any remaining tissue.

After 16 weeks, much of the procedure is done with the forceps to pull fetal parts our through the cervical opening, as suction alone will not work due to the fetus' size. The doctor keeps track of what fetal parts have been removed so that none are left inside. Lastly, a curette, and/or the suction machine are used to remove any remaining tissue or blood clots which, if left behind, could cause infection and bleeding.

Medication Methods for Second Trimester Induced Abortion41
This procedure induces abortion by using drugs to cause labor and eventual delivery of the fetus and placenta. Like labor at term, this procedure typically involves 10-24 hours in a hospital's labor and delivery unit. Digoxin or potassium chloride is injected into the amniotic fluid, umbilical cord or fetal heart prior to labor to avoid the delivery of a live fetus. The cervix is softened with the use of laminaria and/or medications. Next, pitocin, misoprostol and sometimes mifepristone are used to induce labor. In most cases, these drugs result in the delivery of the dead fetus and placenta. The patient may receive oral or intravenous pain medications. Occasionally, scraping of the uterus is needed to remove the placenta.

Potential complications include hemorrhage and the need for a blood transfusion, retained placenta and possible uterine rupture.

Later term abortion methods
D&E After viability
This procedure usually takes 2-3 days and is associated with increased risk to the life and health of the mother. Because a live birth is possible, injections are given to cause fetal death. Medications (digoxin and potassium chloride( are either injected into the amniotic fluid, the umbilical cord, or directly into the fetus' heart. The remainder of the procedure is the same as the second trimester D&E. Fetal parts are reassembled after removal from the uterus to make sure nothing is left behind to cause infection or bleeding.

An alternative procedure, called "Intact D&E" is also used. The goal is to remove the fetus in one piece, thus reducing the risk of leaving parts behind or causing damage to the woman's body. This procedure requires the cervix to be opened wider. However, it is still often necessary to crush the fetus' skull for removal as it is difficult to dilate the cervix wide enough to bring the head out intact.

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Consider the immediate risks of abortion
Abortion carries the risk of significant complications such as bleeding, infection and damage to organs. Serious medical complications occur infrequently in early abortions, but increase with later abortions.43 Current information reports the following risks:

Heavy Bleeding
Some bleeding after abortion is normal. However, there is a risk of severe bleeding known as hemorrhaging.  This may result from cervical tears, uterine punctures, retained tissue or when the uterus fails to contract after it is emptied. When this happens, a D&C may be required to stop the bleeding and sometimes a blood transfusion may be necessary.44 

Incomplete or Failed abortion45
Sometimes, a surgical abortion fails to suction out the embryo and the pregnancy continues. This is more common in very early pregnancies (4-6 weeks LMP). In other cases, the abortion removes some, but not all of the pregnancy tissue. This can lead to infection and bleeding.

Infection can develop from the insertion of medical instruments into the uterus, or from fetal parts that are mistakenly left inside (known as an incomplete abortion).  This may cause bleeding and/or a pelvic infection requiring antibiotics and may result in the need for a surgical procedure to fully empty the uterus. Infection may cause scarring of the pelvic organs. Also, see "Mifeprex abortion" (above) to learn about a rare, fatal infection that is associated with abortion.

Damage to Organs47
The cervix and/or uterus may be cut, torn or punctured by abortion instruments. This may cause excessive bleeding requiring surgical repair resulting in scarring of the uterine lining. If the uterus is punctured, the bowel and bladder may be injured. The risk of these types of complications increases with the length of the pregnancy.

* Getting complete information on the risks associated with abortion is limited due to incomplete reporting and lack of record keeping linking abortions to complications.48


Local anesthetics, sedatives and pain medications may cause allergic reactions of varying degrees of severity. Convulsions, heart complications and, in extreme cases, death are known risks of general anesthesia.49

RH Sensitization
Every pregnant woman should receive blood type testing to learn if her blood type is "Rh positive" or "Rh negative." All pregnant women who are Rh negative should receive Rhogam® to prevent the formation of antibodies that may harm current or future pregnancies.

In extreme cases, complications from abortion (excessive bleeding, infection, organ damage, blood clots and adverse reactions to anesthesia) may lead to death.
51 The risk of death immediately following an induced abortion performed at or below 8 weeks is extremely low (approximately 1 in a million) but increases with length of pregnancy. For pregnancies over 21 weeks, the risk of dying from induced abortion is 91 in a million.52

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Consider the Long Term Risks of Abortion

Finding out the real risks associated with abortion is difficult due to incomplete reporting of complications. There is evidence that induced abortion can be associated with significant loss of both emotional and physical health long term.53 Get the facts before going through a procedure or taking medicine that could have long-term effects on your health.54

Abortion and Pre-term Birth

Women who undergo one or more induced abortions carry a significant increased risk of delivering prematurely in the future.55  Premature delivery is associated with higher rates of children with cerebral palsy, as well as all other complications (respiratory, bowel, brain, and eye problems).56

Abortion and Breast Cancer

Medical experts continue to debate the association between abortion and breast cancer. Research has shown the following:

1) Carrying a pregnancy to full term gives a measure of protection against breast cancer, especially a woman's first pregnancy before the age of 30.57  Terminating such a pregnancy results in loss of that protection.58

2) The hormones of pregnancy cause breast tissue to grow rapidly in the first 3 months, but it is not until after 32 weeks LMP that breasts mature enough to produce milk and become more cancer resistant. That's why a premature birth before 32 weeks LMP significantly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, as with late term abortions.59

3) The majority of worldwide studies report a positive association (increased risk) between induced abortion and the later development of breast cancer.60

Abortion & Placenta Previa61

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta covers or partially covers the cervix. This can result in unpredictable massive bleeding that threatens the life of baby and mother, especially during labor. In addition to the risk of bleeding, it is associated with the risk of preterm birth and death early in infancy. The risk of placenta previa is higher in women who, among other factors, had a prior induced abortion (especially the D&C type), are over 34, had a prior C-section and/or had prior placenta previa.

Psychological / Emotional Impact
After an abortion, most women say they initially felt relief and looked forward to their lives returning to normal. But some women report negative emotions after abortion that linger, unresolved. For others, problems related to their abortion emerge months or even years later. There is evidence that abortion is associated with a decrease in long-term emotional and physical health.62

In line with the best available evidence, women should be informed that abortion significantly increases risk for:

  • Clinical depression and anxiety63
  • Drug and alcohol abuse64
  • Symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)65
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior66

The bottom line is that the scientific evidence indicates that the abortion is more likely to be associated with negative psychological outcomes when compared to miscarriage or carrying an unintended pregnancy to term.67

If you or someone you know is struggling with unwanted feelings after an abortion, pregnancy centres offer confidential, compassionate support to help women (and men) work through these feelings. You are not alone.

Pregnancy often affects a woman's most important relationships. Many couples choose abortion to preserve their relationship. Yet research reveals that couples who choose induced abortion are at increased risk for problems in their relationship.68

Women experiencing lack of support and pressure to abort from their partners were more likely to choose abortion.69

Spiritual Consequences
People have different understandings of God. Whatever your present beliefs may be, having an abortion may affect more than just your body and your mind -- there is a spiritual side to abortion that deserves to be considered. What might God think about your situation? What thoughts do you have about your own spiritual development and your unborn baby's future as a spiritual being?

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Explore Your Options

You have the legal right to choose the outcome of your pregnancy.

Real empowerment comes when you find the strength and resources necessary to make your best choice.

Choosing to continue your pregnancy and to parent may feel overwhelming at first. The good news is that there are a lot of resources available to help single women or couples successfully raise their child.

The caring people at your local pregnancy center are ready to connect you with these needed resources such as:

  • Prenatal Care
  • Childbirth preparation classes
  • Parenting classes
  • Infant & Maternity supplies
  • Emotional and Spiritual Support

Many women and men find the help they need to make this choice a positive one.

Developing an adoption plan empowers you to create a positive future for yourself and your child. Adoption may not be the first thought as you make this pregnancy decision. However, you may be surprised to learn that you may select the parents who would raise your child and that you may have some level of ongoing relationship with your child, if you wish.

Unlike abortion, adoption brings the lifelong satisfaction of knowing that you gave your child the chance for a life of his or her own.

Research has shown that pregnant teens and women who make an adoption plan are more likely to finish school, have better jobs and overall report a high level of satisfaction with their decision for adoption.70

Each year thousands of women make this choice. This decision is often made by women who first thought abortion was their only way out.

Help is Available
Facing a pregnancy decision can seem overwhelming. That is why knowing where to go for help is important. Talk to someone you can trust - your partner, your parents, a pastor, a priest or perhaps a good friend. Also, the caring people
here at the Valley Care Pregnancy Centre are available to help you through this stressful time. If you do not live in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, call 1-800-395-HELP to find a pregnancy center near you.


A substance, drug or device given with the intent of causing the destruction of the embryo or fetus.
Intentionally ending a pregnancy or causing the destruction of the embryo or fetus.
The narrow, lower end of the uterus.
Conception (or Fertilization)

Joining the man's sperm and the woman's egg to create the first form of human life.


Dilation & curettage. A surgical procedure that involves stretching open the cervix and using an instrument called a curette to scrape and remove portions of the uterine lining and contents.
Human life in the earliest weeks of development, during which time the organs are formed.
A developing unborn baby with an observable human structure; the stage following embryo. Latin for "offspring."
Full Term Pregnancy
The point at which the pregnancy has completed at least 37 weeks from the mother's last menstrual period.
In human pregnancy, it is the length of time from fertilization until birth.
When the embryo attaches to the inner uterine lining.
Dried seaweed or kelp formed into narrow bundles that absorb fluid and expand in size when placed inside the cervical canal, causing the cervix to dilate; used in abortion.
Last Menstrual Period (LMP)
The date when a woman starts her last menstrual period before conception. This is the point in time from which the pregnancy and the age of the unborn baby are typically measured.
Off-Label Use
The legal use of a medication or medical device for a purpose for which it has not been specifically approved in the U.S. by the Food & Drug Administration.
A pancake-like structure that provides nourishment to the baby through the mother's bloodstream.
An interval of three months used to measure three successive stages of pregnancy: first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester.
Female organ where the unborn baby develops during pregnancy.

*For the purposes of this article, everywhere "abortion" appears, it stands for "induced abortion."

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This information (except the reference to the fetal sac paragraph and image and the YouTube video) is taken with permission from a brochure entitled, "Before You Decide" copyright 2011.

References for this article may be found in this PDF File



A Woman's story of a young lady's struggle with abortion


One Man's story of a young man's struggle with abortion




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