The prevalence of post-abortion syndrome in patients presenting at Kalafong Hospital's Family Medicine Clinic after having a termination of pregnancy

  • M Van Rooyen Senior Lecturer, Department of Family Medicine, University of Pretoria
  • S Smith Chief Medical Officer, Kalafong Hospital, University of Pretoria
Keywords: termination of pregnancy, post-abortion syndrome, holistic, continuous care


Background: Post-abortion syndrome (PAS) is said to be the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual trauma caused by an abortion, which is an event outside the normal range of human experience. Post-abortion syndrome is a type of post-traumatic disorder and is characterised by a stressor (the abortion), the event being re-experienced, avoidance and/or numbing of general responsiveness, and physical symptoms such as insomnia and depression.

The question was asked whether the patients at Kalafong Hospital experienced any of the after-effects of a termination of pregnancy and whether these effects would fulfill the criteria of post-abortion syndrome.

Method: A prospective descriptive study was done over a six-month period. All female patients presenting at the Family Medicine Clinic of Kalafong Hospital who were known to have had a previous abortion on request were asked to participate in the study. After obtaining informed consent, a structured questionnaire on their psychological symptoms was completed by the participants with the help of the researcher. The questionnaire contained demographic data, as well as questions on the above-mentioned symptoms of PAS. To fulfill the criteria of PAS, the symptoms should have been present for more than a month and must have affected the subject's daily functioning.

Results: Of the 48 woman recruited, 16 (33%) fulfilled the criteria of PAS, and more than 50% of the women had had some or other emotional or psychological after-effect.

Conclusion: This study showed that one out of every three women presenting at Kalafong Hospital after abortion fulfilled the criteria of PAS. Since family physicians are committed to their patients and regard it as their duty to address problems prevalent in the community they serve, it is necessary to investigate further the possible link between termination of pregnancy and the emotional problems identified. It is imperative that women requesting termination of pregnancy receive comprehensive counseling prior to the procedure, as well as support thereafter, to ensure that they are not unnecessarily traumatised.

For full text click here:SA Family Pract 2004;46(5): 21-24

Author Biography

M Van Rooyen, Senior Lecturer, Department of Family Medicine, University of Pretoria
Dr M van Rooyen, Department of Family Medicine, P O Box 667, Pretoria, 0001, Tel: 082 785 4500 / (012) 354 2144 / (012) 318 6779, Fax: (012) 354 1317 / (012) 318 6804

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190