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Hump Day: Getting Help to Get Past Abortion

Welcome to Hump Day, TrèsSugar's sex advice column. If you have questions about sex, send them to TrèsSugar, and our friend Dr. Charlie Glickman from Good Vibrations will offer his sound advice!
Today's question:

Last year, I accidentally got pregnant and had an abortion. I broke up with that boyfriend a few months later and now I'm dating someone new. When we first started having sex, everything was fine, but I keep having fears that I'm going to get pregnant again. I don’t regret the abortion — it was definitely the right choice for me at the time. But what can I do to put it behind me?

To see Dr. Glickman's advice,

.

Many (but not all) women who have had abortions find that they have concerns, worries, or fear afterwards. For that matter, some women experience relief, grief, sorrow, shame, or anger. Many significant others (boyfriends, husbands, family members, friends) have their own emotional responses, too.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the groups that offer “support” for women who are considering or have had abortions use guilt, shame, and fear to convince women to not have one. Many of them also use lies to make women think that abortions are much riskier or dangerous than they actually are. On the other hand, the pro-choice movement has mostly (but not totally) been rather silent when it comes to talking about the fact that many different, and often challenging, emotions sometimes arise. My impression is that this happens out of a fear that acknowledging these experiences would give the anti-choice folks ammunition in the political struggles around abortion. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of women and their partners without genuine support.

Even though you firmly believe that your decision was the right one for you at the time, you can still have difficult emotions come up. That’s hardly restricted to the experience of abortion — it can happen around any difficult choice we might make in any part of our lives. But it’s not hard to understand how it could affect your sex life.

In my experience, the only effective way to deal with these feelings is to move through them. Shoving them aside and ignoring them can work for a while, but they almost always come back out later. Working through how you feel can be hard, but it’s a much more useful strategy. Rather than “putting it behind you,” you might find it more useful to think of it as “working through your feelings.”

There’s an amazing organization called Exhale that I highly recommend. Exhale offers free, anonymous phone counseling around abortion. Their services are available to women who have had abortions or are thinking about it, as well as significant others of any gender (about 6% of their callers are men). Their goal is to give people a “pro-voice” space, without judging them for their feelings or decisions, and their services are available in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Tagalog upon request. Their web publication, Our Truths, also is full of amazing stories and they have plenty of resources to offer, including websites and suggestions for helpful books. I can’t say enough good things about these folks. [Full disclosure — I offer the training for the hotline counselors on working with male callers.]

You might also consider working with a therapist. I consider therapy to be one of the more useful tools we have for emotional growth, as long as you feel safe and the therapist is genuinely focused on your needs, rather than their own beliefs or ideas. You can call Exhale for a recommendation, if you would find that helpful.

It’s also probably a good idea to talk about it with your current boyfriend, if you haven’t yet. Not only would that give him the opportunity to support you, but the two of you could also come up with ways to feel intimate or have sex that feel safe to you. For example, the two of you could decide to have sex in ways that can’t result in pregnancy, like sexual massage or oral sex. Plus, if he’s worrying that he’s doing something wrong or that you’re not attracted to him, telling him about your concerns could reassure him and help the two of you stay connected.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you find the support you seek and I wish you all the best.

Image Source: Getty
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biarose biarose 6 years
I think your comparisons are getting a bit far out
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
Biarose - Did you know that people commonly eat fertilized eggs? They sell them in stores. Doesn't mean they're chickens. It's like saying flour mixed with water and yeast is bread, it's not. It takes time and heat to become bread. Better example?
biarose biarose 6 years
It's a tough topic and most people have very strong opinions when it comes to abortion!
sham28 sham28 6 years
I think the community did very well with this. Important points were addressed, there were clearly opposing views, and everyone was.... for the *most* part, respectful. Well done. It's refreshing that people can still discuss something so difficult without it turning into a festival of insults and cursing.
biarose biarose 6 years
Saying an embryo is a baby is not like saying an egg is a chicken.. an embryo is fertilized.
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
To the person who wrote in, I definitely suggest counseling first and foremost. There is nothing easy about having an abortion, no matter how bad the situation is in your life (job, abusive boyfriend, etc). Second, if you still feel up to having sex and pregnancy is your only concern, I highly suggest doubling up on birth control. The odds of you getting pregnant while on The Pill, Shot, or with an IUD when combined with a condom (or even the pull out method) are slim to none. I don't suggest the pull out method on its own, but combined with something else that is 98-99% effective, it's fine.
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
biarose, it's not a matter of an opinion, an embryo is not a baby. That's like saying an egg is a chicken. I am NOT for late term abortions, at all. I am very pro-choice, but if the woman is going to wait until the baby is 3+ months developed, that's really pushing it. If the fetus can live outside the womb on its own, then it's definitely a baby. I'm not here to judge women who have made the decision, it is a hard one to make. I am not a fan of those who use abortion as a form of birth control though, that's wrong. Accidents happen and sometimes it is the best option for someone. I do think it's important to double up on birth control if you know you're not in a situation to raise a child. I admit to not doubling up myself, but if something were to happen, I could raise a child right now. Earlier on in my relationship, we used both The Pill and condoms. I've known more than a handful of people who got pregnant on the Pill alone with perfect use. That's scary.
biarose biarose 6 years
No, I could not give my baby away if I had one. That's why I don't put myself in the situation where I could get pregnant. And in my opinion, a fetus is a baby. Not being born yet doesn't make it any less of a baby. No, pregnancy isn't an easy thing, especially if it's unwanted, but that's why if you don't want to get pregnant, you shouldn't put yourself in the situation where it's a possibility.
biarose biarose 6 years
No, I could not give my baby away if I had one. That's why I don't put myself in the situation where I could get pregnant. And in my opinion, a fetus is a baby. Not being born yet doesn't make it any less of a baby. No, pregnancy isn't an easy thing, especially if it's unwanted, but that's why if you don't want to get pregnant, you shouldn't put yourself in the situation where it's a possibility.
biarose biarose 6 years
So you would rather kill your baby than give it up for adoption?
Glamgirl1 Glamgirl1 6 years
Everyone has a right to have a choice...its their decision, their life and only they know the true reason and the situation they are in to make that choice.
biarose biarose 6 years
.. there is the adoption option though. My mum got pregnant at 16 and gave the baby up for adoption. I just think if people put themselves in the position that it's possible for them to get pregnant it's not right for them to just kill the baby because they don't want to be pregnant for 9 months. They took that risk when they had insufficiently protected sex. I would not look down on a woman who had an abortion because she was raped, even though that is not the personal decision I would make, I understand that it would be very hard. But when people have taken the risk of becoming pregnant and then have an abortion and they don't feel remorseful, I don't think that's right.
biarose biarose 6 years
.. there is the adoption option though. My mum got pregnant at 16 and gave the baby up for adoption. I just think if people put themselves in the position that it's possible for them to get pregnant it's not right for them to just kill the baby because they don't want to be pregnant for 9 months. They took that risk when they had insufficiently protected sex. I would not look down on a woman who had an abortion because she was raped, even though that is not the personal decision I would make, I understand that it would be very hard. But when people have taken the risk of becoming pregnant and then have an abortion and they don't feel remorseful, I don't think that's right.
clareberrys clareberrys 6 years
Thanks nancita and anonymous #9! Whether you are for it or not how can you not be for a persons right to choose what happens to them???
clareberrys clareberrys 6 years
You're right biarose - it is a CHOICE. An extremely difficult, emotional and most of all PERSONAL choice. I was 19 years old at the time and had only been with my boyfriend for 5 months. I was in no way shape or form ready to bring a child into this world. To me, it would be worse to bring a child into the world and not be able to give it the best life I possibly can than to not bring it in at all. Had I gone through with that pregnancy I would have a 3 year old child right now, most likely be in a ton of debt, maybe would not have graduated college and would not be able to do the things that I have done. Now, 4 years later, that same boyfriend and I are going to be getting married and will someday bring a child into this world - when we are ready. Im not saying that every person that gets pregnant young should make this same choice- Im saying that it is a wonderful thing that as a FREE woman we are able to choose the path that is best for us. Making the choice is never an easy one so my advice would be to not really knock it because you have absolutely NO idea what its like to go through it. Im glad that I surround myself with loving, caring and supporting people that no matter what they believe will always be there to lend a shoulder or an ear and maybe you should think about that because 1 out of 4 women has had an abortion. Chances are you probably know someone who has and just dont know it and by you being so judgmental it makes it that much harder for them.
biarose biarose 6 years
I know my choice of words wasn't perfect in my previous comment, but I'm sorry, it just makes me mad when people act as though an abortion is something that "happens" to a woman. It's a choice.
nancita nancita 6 years
Clareberrys, that is great advice. Thanks for being so honest and open and, well, unashamed!
clareberrys clareberrys 6 years
Thanks for the support natasch! Not just for me, but for all women, those who have had an abortion and those that have gone through other life changing hard experiences.
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