WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Women who undergo an
abortion don't seem to face a greatly increased risk of mental
health problems after having the procedure, a new study
Trine Munk-Olsen, lead author of the study published in the Jan.
27 issue of the
New England Journal of Medicine, said she was "not surprised by [the] findings," given that they mirror previous research on the subject.
"Most well-made studies in the field of abortion and mental health show that having an abortion is not associated with an increased risk of having a psychiatric episode," she said.
A small study published in the December issue of the journal
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health reported
similar findings: Teenagers who have an abortion aren't more likely
to be depressed or have low self-esteem than other pregnant teens.
But Priscilla K. Coleman, a professor of human development and
family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who
believes having an abortion boosts the risk of mental health
problems, said at the time that the study was too small to reach
reliable conclusions because it looked at just 69 teens who had had
On the latest research, Dr. Joe DeCook, director of operations
for the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and
Gynecologists, said, "this Danish study must be balanced by a
comparison to the large number of studies that conclude that there
is indeed, for many women, a serious and long-lasting untoward
result on their mental health wholeness... Fifty percent of
abortions are repeat abortions, and the Danish study does not
comment on this half of the affected population. Additionally, 11
percent of abortions happen after the first trimester, and these
women are likewise not included in this analysis.These are women
generally felt to be at higher risk for subsequent mental health
Some previous studies had found that abortion might negatively
affect mental health, and the authors of the Danish study noted
that it's not inconceivable that an unwanted pregnancy could itself
cause mental health problems. So, the authors said they set out to
study the issue in a methodical way.
"We followed all women having abortions in Denmark from 1995 through 2007. Each woman having a first-time, first-trimester-induced abortion was followed individually from nine months before the procedure to 12 months after," said Munk-Olsen, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Center for Register-Based Research at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark.
"During this period, we studied if the women had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital or had records of treatment at an outpatient clinic," she added.
In Denmark, abortions are both free and legal during the first
"Fifteen out of 1,000 women had a first-time psychiatric episode during the first year after having a first-trimester-induced abortion," Munk-Olsen said.
The most frequent reasons for psychiatric visits were neurotic
or stress-related complaints. Some past studies may have included
issues such as sadness or regret, which don't necessary constitute
a mental disorder, Munk-Olsen said.
Among women and girls who actually delivered a baby, about four
in 1,000 had a first-time psychiatric episode before the baby and
about seven afterward -- an increase possibly related to postpartum
depression, the study authors said.
"The higher level of psychiatric contacts in the abortion group could reflect that the women are at a vulnerable time in their lives, but we do not know this," Munk-Olsen said.
Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "The findings show
that motherhood and parenting are decisions with lifelong
implications and that individual women are in the best positions to
decide when and if they are ready to give birth."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on