Friday, May 25, 2018

Women Who Receive Abortion No More Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts Than Those Denied Abortions

A study published Thursday in AJP in Advance found that having an abortion does not place women at higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts than being denied an abortion. In fact, the rates of suicidal ideation were low across groups, when compared with other studies of pregnant and postpartum women.

“The study adds to the growing body of evidence that having an abortion does not lead to negative mental health outcomes,” study co-author M. Antonia Biggs, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, told Psychiatric News. “Therefore, policies requiring that women be warned that they are at increased risk of becoming suicidal if they choose abortion are not evidence based.”

Biggs and colleagues assessed the effects of having an abortion or being denied an abortion on women’s experiences of suicidal ideation over five years, using data from the University of California, San Francisco’s Turnaway Study. This longitudinal study was designed to look at the effects of receiving an abortion compared with being denied an abortion on women’s socioeconomic, mental health, and emotional well-being.

The researchers examined data from nearly 1,000 women recruited from 30 U.S. abortion facilities. Women were interviewed by telephone one week after their abortion visit, then every six months for five years. Women completed the suicidal ideation items on the Brief Symptom Interview (BSI) and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Women who received abortions within two weeks of a facility’s gestational age limit (average 20 weeks pregnant) were compared with women who were denied an abortion because the length of their pregnancy exceeded the facility’s gestational age limit (average 23 weeks pregnant) and carried their pregnancies to term. For further comparison, the study also included a group who obtained a first-trimester abortion (average eight weeks pregnant).

One week after seeking an abortion, 1.9% of the near-limit group and 1.3% of those turnaway-birth group reported suicidal ideation symptoms on the BSI. Over the five-year study, the proportion of women with suicidal ideation symptoms on the BSI declined significantly to 0.25% for women in the near-limit group and nonsignificantly to 0.21% for those who were denied an abortion and later gave birth, wrote the authors.

“By following women for five years, we are able to assess whether abortion is followed by an increase in suicidal ideation and whether the suicidal ideation trajectories of women who obtained an abortion differ from those of women denied an abortion. For women having an abortion, we found that the proportion with any symptoms did not increase but rather decreased over the five-year period,” Biggs and colleagues wrote. “We also found no effect of receiving compared with being denied an abortion on either of our two suicidal ideation measures at any time point, dispelling the notion that abortion increases women’s risk for suicidal ideation over time.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Five-Year Study Suggests Abortion Does Not Lead to MH Problems.”

(Image: iStock/stock-eye)


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