Friday, December 16, 2016

Abortion Does Not Lead to Long-Term Mental Health Problems, Study Suggests

A study that tracked the long-term mental health outcomes of women who obtained or were denied abortions has concluded that abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of mental health problems five years later. In fact, as was reported this week in JAMA Psychiatry, women who had obtained an abortion demonstrated more positive outcomes initially compared with women who were denied an abortion.

“There is a considerable amount of misinformation about negative mental health consequences as a result of abortion,” said former APA President Nada Stotland, M.D., who was not involved with the study. Stotland is an expert in reproductive psychiatry. “It’s important that we, as mental health professionals, have and provide evidence-based information to patients so that they may make their own decisions … without being influenced by inaccurate information,” she told Psychiatric News. 

For the study, M. Antonia Biggs, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues recruited women aged 15 and older from 30 abortion clinics in 21 states throughout the United States. A total of 956 women were interviewed one week after seeking an abortion, and then every six months for five years. The researchers compared the mental health trajectories of women who received and were denied an abortion (due to the pregnancy being beyond the gestational limits of the facility). The group of women turned away from abortion was further divided into those who gave birth and those who miscarried or later had an abortion elsewhere.

The researchers found that women who were denied an abortion, particularly those who later miscarried or had an abortion elsewhere, had the most elevated levels of anxiety and lowest self-esteem and life satisfaction one week after being denied an abortion. These differences quickly improved and approached levels similar to those in the other groups by 6 to 12 months. 

“Our findings add to the body of evidence rejecting the notion that abortion increases women’s risk of experiencing adverse psychological outcomes,” Biggs and colleagues wrote. “Thus, there is no evidence to justify laws that require women seeking abortion to be forewarned about negative psychological responses.”  

“It’s time for mental health professionals and for our professional organizations to be more active advocates for this important issue,” Stotland said.

For related information, read APA's Position Statement on Abortion and Women’s Reproductive Health Care Rights

(Image: iStock/Saadetalkan)


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