Summary: Abortion Increases Likelihood of Maternal Substance Abuse

A history of induced abortion is associated with elevated maternal substance use during pregnancy. Unwanted pregnancies are not associated with substance use during pregnancy, except for cigarette smoking.

  • Abortion is often a decision filled with conflicting emotions and external pressures, where the decision to abort is inconsistent with the woman's true desire. In such circumstances, the after-effects of abortion can include feelings of loss and grief and can lead to substance abuse. This study examined substance use during pregnancy based on a maternal history of miscarriage, stillbirth, and induced abortion. Women with a history of one induced abortion (not other types of perinatal loss), as compared to women with no history of abortion, were considerably more likely to use substances in seven of the eight categories of substance examined. The research also examined the association of the "wantedness" of a pregnancy. No significant differences were observed between wanted and unwanted pregnancies regarding various forms of substance use, with the exception of cigarette smoking. Women experiencing unwanted pregnancies were more likely to have smoked during pregnancy than women experiencing wanted pregnancies.1

1Coleman, Priscilla K., David C. Reardon, and Jesse R. Cougle. Substance Use Among Pregnant Women in the Context of Previous Reproductive Loss and Desire for Current Pregnancy, British Journal of Health and Psychology, 2005.


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