MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Women with a history of
mental illness do not seem to be at increased risk of readmission
to a psychiatric hospital after having an abortion in their first
trimester, a new study suggests.
The findings, which appear in the February issue of the
Archives of General Psychiatry, support several previous studies showing that women who undergo abortion do not face a higher risk of mental health problems afterwards.
But anti-abortion advocates say the psychological risks of
abortion are still not fully understood.
"The take-home message from our study is that having a first-time, first-trimester induced abortion does not influence readmission risk, since risk of readmission is similar before and after the abortion procedure," said study author Dr. Trine Munk-Olsen, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark.
Women in this latest study were considered at risk because they
had a record of at least one previous admission to an inpatient
psychiatric facility. "We speculate that having mental health
problems influences women's decision to have an induced abortion,
but this decision did not appear to influence the illness course in
this group of women," Monk-Olsen said.
Rachel Jones is a senior research associate at the Guttmacher
Institute in New York City, which says it works to advance sexual
and reproductive health and rights. "This is one more piece of
good-quality research showing that there isn't an increased risk of
serious mental health problems after abortion. The findings should
provide further reassurance that abortion does not cause
significant mental health problems," she said.
The researchers used registry information of all women born in
Denmark between 1962 and 1992 who had a record of one or more
psychiatric admissions at least nine months before either a
first-time abortion during the first trimester or childbirth. There
were 2,838 women with records of mental disorders who underwent a
first-trimester abortion between January 1994 and December
During the period from nine months before to 12 months after the
abortion, 321 women were readmitted to a psychiatric hospital. By
contrast, 5,293 women with records of mental disorders gave birth
to their first child during the same study period. Among these
women, 273 were readmitted from nine months prior to 12 months
after childbirth, the study showed.
Although rates of readmission were higher overall among women
having abortions, readmission rates were higher a month afterwards
in the group of women who decided to go through childbirth, the
study authors said.
Risk factors for readmission included a parental history of
mental disorders. Risk was also highest among women in both groups
who had been hospitalized closer to the time of their pregnancy,
abortion or birth. The risk of readmission was reduced in women
with one or more children at the time of abortion, according to the
Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family
studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, took issue with
the new findings.
She noted that the study was funded by the Susan Thompson
Buffett Foundation, which, Coleman said, supports research on
abortion rights. And the women in the study were only followed for
one year after their abortion or the birth of their child, but
women may experience emotional upheaval from the experience years
later, she said.
"The design is so problematic that the results really don't mean a lot," Coleman said. "There is a wealth of data in the literature building a strong case that abortion could be detrimental to a certain proportion of women. We need to be helping women and not telling them, 'It is no big deal.'"
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the
Family Research Council, an anti-abortion group based in
Washington, D.C., said, "The [study] findings can't be 100 percent
"I think of the women that I know in my own life, and many of the stories I hear from women who suffer from post-abortion syndrome and really profoundly regret their abortion," she said.
Learn more about mental illness at the
National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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