Suzanne Hurley, a member of our counselling team, wants women to know this Mental Health Day that it is absolutely normal to feel a ‘‘minefield of emotions’’ when experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. For some women it is a straightforward decision to either continue with the pregnancy or terminate, but for other women, it can be an incredibly complex and stressful time in their life. At Marie Stopes, we understand this, which is why we provide free, decision-based counselling to any woman who seeks it.
According to Hurley “just because a woman is distressed doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.” There are numerous reasons why a woman may be confused, scared or distressed when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Our counsellors are trained in pregnancy support and are here to help women through what can often be a difficult time.
Some of the women our counsellors talk to are in abusive relationships and are afraid of telling their partner. Some women are experiencing forms of reproductive coercion, such as financial abuse or are being pressured into keeping or terminating the pregnancy, and feel isolated.
Cultural, religious and personal beliefs can all add to the stigma surrounding abortion. Some women face being ostracised or even cast out of their families and communities, whether they decide to terminate the pregnancy or not. This external stigma can lead to internal stigma, and women feeling like they are trapped and have no one they can turn to for help.
While this can be a very distressing time, we want to remind women that there is help available, that they do not have to struggle alone. One patient told us that “the counselling put my confusion into perspective, which at the time was really helpful” while another said that the counselling “made me feel like I wasn’t a terrible person for making the decision to terminate.”
This Mental Health Day, we want to let every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy know that she is not alone, that there is someone she can talk to, and that options are available. Hurley adds “we can’t decide for you but we can help you to clarify what is best for you.”
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and would like to talk to an unbiased, decision-based counsellor, follow the link here.