Summary: Negative reactions to abortion can lead to a subsequent increase in mental health disorders.

An unwanted pregnancy terminated by an abortion is an event that can cause measurable distress in women, and these feelings of distress have been associated with increased mental health problems.

  • A birth cohort of over 500 women living in New Zealand was examined in a study to determine whether abortions can cause an increase in mental health problems in the women that have them.  The study, conducted by a research team in the University of Otago, gathered data on the pregnancy history and mental health outcomes of all the participants.  The study results showed that more than eighty-five percent of women reported having negative responses to abortion (sorrow, sadness, guilt, regret, grief, and disappointment).  Women who reported four or more negative responses were further categorized as having distress as a result of abortion.  Distress was then associated with an increased incidence of mental health problems (depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol and drug dependence).  These results suggest that women who experience distress as a result of having an abortion are more likely to have subsequent mental health problems.  The risks of subsequent mental disorders also increase with the extent of distress experienced.1

1Reactions to abortion and subsequent mental health, The British Journal of Psychiatry, May 2009, Vol. 195, pp.420-426.


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