Depression Linked to Abortion

Politics and values shape the way that research on women's psychological responses to abortion is conducted and interpreted.
  • While the initial reaction after abortion is usually relief, sadness and regret often follow.
  • Major's study admits that there are at least some women (about 1%) who are adversely affected by abortion.
  • That 1% represents around 200 women per year in New Zealand who could possibly need psychiatric help.
  • Younger women, those with other children and women with a history of depression are more likely to have negative reactions to abortion.
  • The very women for whom legal abortion is considered justified on psychiatric grounds are the ones who have the highest risk of post-abortion psychiatric disorders.

This page has yet to be updated with the latest medical research linking Depression to Abortion.

Controversy exists about whether abortion or childbirth is associated with greater psychological risks.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reveals evidence that abortion does contribute to emotional problems.

A review of the medical records of 56,741 Californian, Medicaid patients, showed that women who had abortions were 2.6 times more likely than delivering women to be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment in the first ninety days following abortion or delivery. [1]

Comparing psychiatric admission rates of women in time periods from ninety days to four years after either abortion or childbirth, the researchers in a California study found that subsequent psychiatric admissions are more common among low-income women, who have had an induced abortion, than among those who carry a pregnancy to term. The research findings applied both in the short and longer term.

Researchers used Californian Medicaid (Medi-Cal) records of women aged 13-49 years at the time of either abortion or childbirth during 1989. Only women who had no psychiatric admissions or pregnancy events during the year before the target pregnancy event were included.

Pro-choice researcher Dr. Brenda Major disputed the study: "A truly definitive study of the psychological effects of abortion is impossible, as such a study would involve randomly assigning women with unwanted pregnancies to continue or abort their pregnancies, a prospect that is clearly unethical."
Politics and values shape the way that research on women's psychological responses to abortion is conducted and interpreted.

She further states that "Politics and values shape the way that research on women's psychological responses to abortion is conducted and interpreted."

Major's research team focused on the absence of problems among the majority of post-abortive women. They concluded that "most women do not experience psychological problems or regret about their abortion two years post-abortion, but some do. Those who do, tend to be women with a prior history of depression."

Getting to the Truth
In Major's study, women arriving at one of three sites for an abortion of a first-trimester unintended pregnancy were randomly approached to participate in a longitudinal study with four assessments-one hour before the abortion, and one hour, one month, and two years after the abortion. Eight hundred and eighty-two (85%) of 1043 eligible women approached agreed; 442 (50%) of 882 were followed for two years.
Pre-pregnancy history of depression, younger age and having more children pre-abortion predicted more negative abortion evaluations.

Six (1%) of 442 women reported Post-traumatic stress disorder. Depression decreased and self-esteem increased from pre-abortion to post-abortion, but negative emotions increased and decision satisfaction decreased over time.

Pre-pregnancy history of depression was a risk factor for depression, lower self-esteem, and more negative abortion-specific outcomes two years postabortion. Younger age and having more children pre-abortion also predicted more negative abortion evaluations.[2]

Fifteen percent of the women approached were unwilling to participate and two years after the abortion, half of the 882 women who agreed to take part in the study appear to have dropped out.
The initial reaction following an abortion is usually one of relief but as time goes by, sadness and regret often follow.


The initial reaction following an abortion is usually one of relief but as time goes by, sadness and regret often follow. The abortion becomes difficult to talk about and all mention of it is avoided. Read more about this here.

Problems faced by researchers in this field are high attrition (drop out) rates among women between the time of their abortion and subsequent interviews and concealment of past abortions. Fifty to sixty percent attrition or concealment rates are common.

Researchers in Finland found that the suicide rate after an abortion was three times the general suicide rate and six times that associated with birth.

Records - Based Studies
Researchers from the statistical analysis unit of Finland's National Research and Development Center for Welfare and Health (STAKES) linked suicides in women of reproductive age (1987-94) with the Finnish birth, abortion, and hospital discharge registers to find out how many women who committed suicide had had a completed pregnancy during her last year of life. [3]

The study found that the suicide rate after an abortion was three times the general suicide rate and six times that associated with birth. The increased risk of suicide after an induced abortion indicates either common risk factors for both or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health.

A record-based study by Reardon and colleagues used a Danish registry system to examine psychiatric admissions for 3 months post partum and post abortion for all residents under the age of 50 years.

They found that the overall rate of psychiatric admission was 18.4 per 10,000 population for women who had had an abortion and 12.0 per 10,000 population for women who had given birth.
Psychiatric admission rates subsequent to the target pregnancy event were significantly higher for women who had had an abortion

The study revealed that psychiatric admission rates subsequent to the target pregnancy event were significantly higher for women who had had an abortion when compared with women who had delivered during every time period examined. The greatest difference in admission rates occurred in the first ninety days. [4]

One would expect women who experience postpartum depression to be at greatest risk of admission within the first ninety days of delivery, whereas women who have an abortion would seem most likely to experience their highest levels of relief soon after the abortion.

Reardon comments: "It may be the result of less social support for women who have an abortion compared with women who deliver, reactions to abortion itself or common risk factors among mentally ill women and those who have abortions that have not yet been identified."

Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health
In a review of academic Ellie Lee's book "Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health," Ann Furedi, chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, looked at the issues surrounding Post-abortion syndrome (PAS) and Post-natal depression (PND). (BPAS is an organisation that advocates for abortion and provides abortion services.)

Furedi says about Lee's book: "Her conclusions are like a stone dropped in the pool of complacency of most pro-choice feminist thinking. Abortion, Motherhood and Mental Health has the potential to make waves - if those outside the academic community can be persuaded to shrug off philistinism and grapple with a book that refuses to simplify complex ideas."
Those who laugh at the diagnostic criteria for PAS (some of which are as vague as 'sense of fore- shortened future and punishment') tend to accept that PND is under-diagnosed and that new mothers are under-supported."
"Lee's observation that there are similarities between claims for PAS and PND are startling because, for most of us, PAS is regarded as a cranky allegation made by those who wish to construct a case that abortion damages women. PND, by contrast, is part of the received canon of maternal care.

Those who laugh at the diagnostic criteria for PAS (some of which are as vague as 'sense of foreshortened future and punishment') tend to accept that PND is under-diagnosed and that new mothers are under-supported."

"Lee suggests that credibility of the claimants, and their ability to key into contemporary concerns and win the ear of the media, matters far more than the intrinsic merits of the claims. PND is regarded as an legitimate claim because it is made from within the medical establishment, whereas PAS is a claim made by a marginalised minority.

One could argue that research demonstrates widespread evidence for PND, but not for PAS. However, Lee suggests that the research in support of post-natal depression needs to be subject to the same kind of scrutiny as that for post-abortion syndrome. When it is, she suggests, it is found as wanting."
Lee's study suggests that there is an inconsistency between the way some dismiss the suggestion that the post-abortion sadness, weepiness and transient feelings of regret are symptomatic of PAS.


"Her study suggests that there is an inconsistency between the way some dismiss the suggestion that the post-abortion sadness, weepiness and transient feelings of regret are symptomatic of PAS, yet accept that in a post-natal situation they are indications of a form of mental illness, PND."

Furedi concludes her book review with this statement: "For many years now, first as advocate of abortion services and now as a provider, I've ridiculed the notion of mandatory abortion counselling.

"I've argued that it is perverse that a pregnant woman opting to end her pregnancy is subjected to counselling about whether she has considered the consequences, while a pregnant woman accessing antenatal care is not."

"It was a rhetorical device to suggest that post-abortion counselling was unnecessary, which I won't be using any more."
Dr Major's study, that [only] 1% of women suffer from PAS means that out of the women who had abortions in New Zealand in 2003, almost 200 will need professional help and possibly hospitalisation.

Minority at Risk
If the number of women at risk of Post Abortion Syndrome is really as low as 1%, that means of the 18, 510 women who had abortions in New Zealand in 2003, almost 200 will need professional help and possibly hospitalisation. That will not include the women who will seek help for chronic but milder depression in the future.

Recognition
Two of the Netherlands pioneering and most experienced abortionists, write that every woman has an emotional reaction after their abortion, which soon passes.

This is also the opinion of Dr Julius Fogel, a pro-abortion psychiatrist and obstetrician who has performed 20,000 abortions, expressed deep concern over the effects of abortion on the mother. He stated:

"Abortion is an impassioned subject. . . . Every woman--whatever her age, background, or sexuality--has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched.

This is a part of her own life. She destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous. One is dealing with the life force.

It is totally beside the point whether or not you think a life is there. You cannot deny that something is being created and that this creation is physically happening...

Often the trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman's lifetime. But it is not as harmless and casual an event as many in the pro-abortion crowd insist.
A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation; it may be a pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct.


A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation; it may be a pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman's consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy."

In 1970, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated, "Serious mental health disorders arise more often in women with previous mental health problems. Thus the very women for whom legal abortion is considered justified on psychiatric grounds, are the ones who have the highest risk of post-abortion psychiatric disorders." Read more details on Post Abortion Syndrome.

In Japan, grieving for the aborted child is socially acceptable and even encouraged. The parents usually make their arrangements in advance. After the abortion, they go to the temple where they are welcomed. The monk chants his sutra, burns incense, rings bells, soothes the deceased with ritual prayer, and assures the parents that the child is now at peace. Read more HERE

Identifying Those Most At Risk
The risk factors for post-abortion psychological maladjustments can be divided into two general categories. The first category includes women for whom there exists significant emotional, social, or moral conflicts regarding the contemplated abortion.
The high risk category includes women for whom there are developmental problems, including immaturity, or pre-existing and unresolved psychological problems.

The second category includes women for whom there are developmental problems, including immaturity, or pre-existing and unresolved psychological problems. Women with characteristics in either or both of these categories would properly be classified as high risk patients.

Conversely, a low risk patient can be described as a woman who has maturely, thoughtfully, and freely arrived at her abortion decision and has no emotional, social, or moral conflicts which challenge that decision. For more details read HERE


STUDIES CITED:
[1] Reardon DC, Cougle JR, Rue VM, Shuping MW, Coleman PK, Ney PG.Psychiatric admissions of low income women following abortion and childbirth. Can Med Assoc J.  CMAJ 2003; 168(10):1253-7.
[2] Major, B., Cozzarelli, C., Cooper M.L., Zubek, J., Richards, C., Wilhite, M.,  Gramzow, R.H. (2000). Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 57(8):777-84.
The full text is available on the web
[3] Sihvo, Sinikka, Hemminki, Elina, Kosunen, Elise, Koponen, Päivikki (1998) Quality of care in abortion services in Finland.
Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica77 (2),210-217. doi: 10.1034/ j.1600-0412.1998.770216.x
[4] David H, Rasmussen N, Holst E. Post-abortion and postpartum psychotic reactions. Fam Plann Perspect 1981;13(1):32-4.