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Expressed needs of women having abortions McKay, Reta Lynn

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the abortion experience from the woman's point of view to discover any unmet needs. All the women were having abortions within twelve weeks of their last menstrual period. The study included interviews with nineteen women at three stages: before the operation, two weeks following, and four months following the operation. A basically unstructured, open-ended interview method was used, allowing for exploration of areas important to the women. Referrals to the study were made by (1) a lay women's health education and abortion referral group, and (2) a gynecologist. The findings were described using frequencies of categories arising from the data. 1 The results of this study suggest that some women having abortions do experience unmet needs. The most common needs identified were: 1. the need for thorough discussion of birth control options coupled with discussion of sexuality; 2. the need for readily available information about all aspects of abortion; 3. the need for abortion counselling, including discussion of alternatives to abortion; 4. the need for emotional support during hospitalization and, possibly, afterwards; 5. the need to explore the meaning of this event within the context of the woman's life, in terms of her expectations of herself and her relationships with others. At the time of the third interview, many of the women described changes in their sexual relationships related to increased feelings of control and determination. The consistency between the developed recognition of sexuality and use of reliable contraception was evident in twelve of the fifteen women seen at that time. This interview revealed that all of the women felt they had made the best decision at the time, but four said they could not go through with an abortion again. The event was profoundly disturbing to their philosophical beliefs. This aspect of the women's lives is not a need of the same order as the others; rather, it is an area to be understood and appreciated, but not subject to specific Intervention. This study has identified, from a small sample, certain unmet needs experienced by abortion patients. Areas which require further research, involving larger numbers, centre around the following questions: 1. What are the most effective ways of meeting the identified needs of women having abortions? 2. What are the longer range effects on a woman's ability to cope with the abortion, and on her life generally, of meeting these needs?

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