Of ambivalence, shame and guilt: Perceptions regarding termination of pregnancy among South African women

Ugash Subramaney, Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, John K Williams


The contentious issue of termination of pregnancy (TOP) is fraught with challenges given the diverse ethical dilemmas that exist within a given sociocultural context.  This research study, drawn from a larger study of 102 women, focuses on the qualitative responses of 22 women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in Johannesburg, South Africa. Consensual qualitative research methods was used to analyse the transcripts of 22 women recruited from two socioeconomic sites, one serving women with limited economic resources and the other serving women with adequate resources. Semistructured interviews asked about reasons for undergoing a TOP and explored thoughts and feelings of the women before and after the procedure, as well as their experience of the process itself. The results are in keeping with the literature and show that ambivalence, shame and guilt as well as relief were common emotions felt by women who underwent a TOP, regardless of socioeconomic status. Service providers should be alert to these feelings and promote an environment of empathy, safety and security for the actual procedure. Longer-term studies are required to assess outcomes related to these immediate responses.

Authors' affiliations

Ugash Subramaney, Department of Psychiatry, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Semel Institute, Department of Biobehavioural Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

John K Williams, Semel Institute, Department of Biobehavioural Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

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Abortion; Psychopathology; Emotional sequelae

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(4):283-284. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9419

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-01-26
Date published: 2015-03-18

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