The outstanding scientific journal “Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences” has just published (July 2013) an important study on the psychiatric and psychological consequences of abortion on women, entitled “Abortion and subsequent mental health: review of the literature”. This study analyzed all scientific trials published since 1995, that evaluated the psychological and psychiatric health of women who had had an abortion, compared with those who had either given birth to a baby or those who had had a miscarriage. The authors retrieved 30 studies that took into account depression, anxiety disorders (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder) and substance abuse disorders in the studied women. A detailed and thorough table that describes every study, with particular attention to women’s age, scale used for assessment, results, and type of the study.
The studies were categorized according to the pregnancy outcome (childbirth, unplanned childbirth or miscarriage) compared with abortion. The results were very interesting and gave new light to the phenomenon of abortion.
a- On 19 studies that compared abortion versus childbirth, 13 showed a clear risk for at least one of the reported mental problems in the abortion group versus childbirth, five papers showed no difference. Only one paper reported a worse mental outcome for childbearing.
b- Some studies compared abortion versus unplanned pregnancies ending with childbirth (this approach is important, since an unplanned childbirth may be a reason for abortion fearing psychological trauma): four studies found a higher risk in the abortion groups and three no difference.
c- Last, authors analyzed those 9 studies that compared abortion versus miscarriage (both ending with fetal loss): three studies showed a greater risk of mental disorders due to abortion, four disclosed no difference and in two, short-term anxiety and depression were higher in the miscarriage group, while long-term anxiety and depression in the abortion group.
What emerges from this analysis is that it seems difficult to argue that abortion has no psychological or psychiatric consequences: no study – with just one exception – in 30, showed that abortion consequences are lower than childbearing, even in the case of “therapeutic” abortion or in the case of unplanned childbearing
Authors solicit further studies in this field, to compare more studies using similar methods and outcomes because, as they write, “The risk that abortion may be correlated with subsequent mental disorders needs a careful assessment, in order to offer women full information when facing a difficult pregnancy”.
The conclusion of the authors is that “fetal loss seems to expose women to a higher risk for mental disorders than childbirth; some studies show that abortion can be considered a more relevant risk factor than miscarriage”.