Introducing Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS)

In Health Policies, Mental Health on February 16, 2013 at 3:36 am


The topic of Post Abortion Stress Syndrome (PASS) brings up great controversy among pro-life and pro-choice groups everywhere. In fact, there is much debate about the existence of this problem because some fear that pro-life groups invented PASS in an attempt to hinder further abortions. However, other groups of people recognize PASS as a problem. This article is not about the controversy, but a highlight on PASS especially since it is present in Southern Africa (Boulind & Edward, 2008).

The term Post Abortion Stress Syndrome is not known by a lot of people and there is little research from the African continent. Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome, abbreviated as PAS or PASS is a form of trauma that can occur in women after an abortion (Speckhard & Rue, 1992). It has also been called post traumatic abortion syndrome. According to a South African study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, women who have experienced abortion have high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which follow findings from earlier studies linking abortion and PTSD (Suliman et al. 2007). Moreover, the study states that high rates of PTSD characterize women who have undergone voluntary pregnancy termination. Believing that PASS exists means that health professionals should provide supportive and constructive counseling around the trauma symptoms African women experience. What are your thoughts on PASS?


1. A. C. Speckjhard and V. M. Rue, “Postabortion Syndrome: An Emerging Public Health Concern,” Journal of Social Issues 48 (1992):95-119.

2. M. Boulind and D. Edward, “The Assessment and Treatment of Post-Abortion Syndrome: A Systematic Case Study From Southern Africa,” Journal of Psychology in Africa 18 (2008): 539-548.

3. S. Suliman, T. Ericksen, P. Labuschgne, R. de Wit, D.J. Stein and S. Seedat, “Comparison of Pain, Cortisol Levels, and Psychological Distress in Women Undergoing Surgical Termination of Pregnancy under Local Anaesthesia versus Intravenous Sedation,” BMC Psychiatry 7 (2007):1-9.

  1. I think this is timely; the APA are launching DSM V in the next few days, it is possible PASS is not covered therein; the experts can tell us. I have had a few years working in hospitals and with patients who have had post abortal psychological trauma, the professional advocacy for this ‘disorder’ is lacking. For people living in Some low and middle-income countries where abortion might be illegal, PASS will have more deleterious effects because those affected do not seek medical or psychological help.

    • Good points Elijah. I don’t think PASS will be covered because it is a hot topic. There needs to be more research that addresses PASS so as to prove that it is common. Thank you for your comment!

  2. I am not well versed in this subject, however I am trying to move into women’s health and this subject is close to my heart. I have met a few women who did feel very conflicted (I don’t know whether traumatized is accurate for them) after an abortion and they might have benefited from a more thorough follow-up and counseling. Also, I find it interesting/helpful that the culture in Japan provides a way to mourn/remember “water babies”–those gone due to abortion, miscarriage, or premature death–at certain shrines. They light candles for them and write prayers or messages. I would imagine many Japanese women might still need more active interventions after an abortion, but it does seem like the culture provides some recognition that the event often doesn’t end on the day of the abortion.

  3. I believe this to be very real. I have known several girls who have elected to have an abortion due to financial restrictions. It is painful for all of them and many suffered depression and anxiety for upwards a year or more. They encountered many triggers which would send them into an emotional spiral and debilitating depression which left them bedridden. There were also issue of short term substance abuse. Luckily all are ok now but it was no easy battle. Nobody expects to feel the symptoms of PASS until its already been done.

    I myself am one of these girls. I’m lucky to have a strong circle of friends who live and support one another.

  4. hy i am doin research of mphil on partners who goin through post abortion syndrom if any one hav any information about related studies do mail me my id is

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  8. The Hope Alive team in Canada led by Professor Phillip Ney has done extensive research in PAS, there are published books and materials as well as training in Group therapy to help people with PAS. The Hope Alive team at Mt Joy college have staff across the continent. You can Google Mount Joy College.

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