Abortion and mental health: evidence from the United States.
Subject: Abortion (Psychological aspects)
Abortion (Research)
Pub Date: 11/01/2009
Publication: Name: Reproductive Health Matters Publisher: Reproductive Health Matters Audience: General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Family and marriage; Health; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Reproductive Health Matters ISSN: 0968-8080
Issue: Date: Nov, 2009 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 34
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 225074448
Full Text: The US Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion was charged with examining and summarising current scientific research addressing mental health factors associated with abortion, including psychological responses. They evaluated all empirical studies (n=50) published in English after 1989 that compared the mental health of women who had had an induced abortion to the mental health of comparison groups of women or that examined factors that predict mental health among women who had had an elective abortion in the US (n=23). Methodological problems were common.

The best evidence indicated that among adult women with an unplanned pregnancy the relative risk of mental health problems was no greater if they had a single elective first-trimester abortion than if they delivered that pregnancy. Evidence on the relative mental health risks associated with multiple abortions was more equivocal. Positive associations may be linked to co-occurring risks that predispose a woman to both multiple unwanted pregnancies and mental health problems. Based on few studies, terminating a wanted pregnancy late in pregnancy due to fetal abnormality appeared to be associated with negative psychological reactions equivalent to those experienced by women who miscarry a wanted pregnancy or experience a stillbirth or newborn death, but less than those who deliver a child with life-threatening abnormalities. The differing patterns observed among women who terminate an unplanned versus a planned pregnancy highlight the importance of taking pregnancy intendedness and wantedness into account when seeking to understand psychological reactions. Some women experience sadness, grief and feelings of loss following termination of a pregnancy, and some experience clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety. However, there was no evidence that an association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors. Several factors are predictive of negative psychological responses following first trimester abortion in the US, many of which also predict negative psychological reactions to other types of stressful life events, including childbirth, and hence are not uniquely predictive of psychological responses following abortion. Prior mental health emerged as the strongest predictor of post-abortion mental health. (1)

(1.) Major B, Appelbaum M, Beckman L, et al. Report of the American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on mental health and abortion (executive summary). American Psychological Association 2008. At: .
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