Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (3)

Abortion Doesn’t Cause Mental Illness

Here’s yet another study showing that abortion does NOT lead to future psychiatric problems. From The New York Times:

The New England Journal of Medicine has taken on one of the pillar arguments in the abortion debate, asking whether having the procedure increases a woman’s risk of mental-health problems and concluding that it doesn’t. In fact, researchers found, having a baby brings a far higher risk.

The study, by Danish scientists (and financed in part by the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which supports research on abortion rights), is the most extensive of its kind to date. It studied 365,550 Danish women who had an abortion or gave birth for the first time between 1995 and 2007. Of those, 84,620 terminated their pregnancies and 280,930 gave birth.

In the year after an abortion, 15.2 out of 1,000 sought psychiatric help (defined as admission to a hospital or clinic), which was essentially the same as the rate of that group (14.6 per 1,000) in the nine months before the abortion. In contrast, among women who went on to give birth, the rate at which they sought treatment increased to 6.7 per 1,000 after delivery from 3.9 per 1,000 before.

Why do first-time mothers have a lower overall rate of mental illness both before and after pregnancy than those who choose termination? The researchers suggest that those who have abortions are more likely to have emotional problems in the first place. Compared with the group who give birth, those who have abortions are also statistically more likely to be struggling economically, and to have a higher rate of unintended pregnancies.

And why do first-time mothers seem to nearly double their risk in the year after giving birth? That is likely to have something to do with the hormonal changes, decreased sleep, and increased stress of parenting, which women who terminate do not experience.

Can we please talk about something else? Like maybe how to help these young women with the issues and unmet contraceptive needs that led to unplanned pregnancy in the first place?

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

3 Responses to “Abortion Doesn’t Cause Mental Illness”

  1. Allan Wafkowski says:

    New research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that abortion nearly doubles a woman’s risk of experiencing mental health problems, often leading to substance abuse and suicidal behavior.

    “Women who had undergone an abortion experienced an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems,” Bowling Green State University Professor Priscilla Coleman states in a summary of her new literature review, published in the journal’s September 2011 issue.

    “There are in fact some real risks associated with abortion that should be shared with women as they are counseled prior to an abortion decision.”

    Coleman’s findings showed that risks of anxiety and depression both rose by over a third after an abortion, while the rates of suicidal behaviors and drug use more than doubled.

    The new research arrives as British Parliamentarians prepare for a Sept. 6 vote on an amendment to the 2011 Health and Social Care Bill. The BBC reports that the amendment would block abortion providers who profit from abortion from counseling women considering the decision, in favor of counseling offered by organizations that do not provide abortion.

    Philippa Taylor, head of public policy at the U.K.’s Christian Medical Fellowship, said on Sept. 1 that in the run-up to the House of Commons vote, “it’s imperative women are made aware of the real risks of developing mental health problems post-abortion.”

    Taylor described the new research on abortion and mental health as “rigorous, extensive, and most timely.”
    Coleman, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies, found striking differences “when women who had had an abortion were compared with women who had carried to term, and when the outcomes measured (were) related to substance use and suicidal behavior.”

    The study, she says, offers “the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature.” It examines the results of 22 published studies that surveyed a combined total of 850,000 women.

    In a section discussing her findings, Coleman notes that the results of her meta-analysis “indicate quite consistently that abortion is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems subsequent to the procedure.”

    The conclusion goes against the findings of the three most recent literature reviews on the same subject, which denied that abortion was a significantly greater psychological risk than giving birth in a case of unintended pregnancy.
    Coleman believes those studies used faulty data from research that did not include “unintended pregnancy carried to term” as a control group with which to compare women who had abortions. She says they also neglected “many recently published studies with extensive controls,” and did not bother to quantify the effects they denied were significant.
    For some readers of the British journal, Coleman’s findings may cast doubt on the use of maternal “mental health” as a justification for abortion.
    She cites a 2008 Psychiatric Bulletin editorial, in which the New Zealand-based researcher David Fergusson “questioned the legitimacy of justifying over 90 percent of U.K. abortions based on the presumption that abortion offers the benefit of reducing mental health risks associated with continuing the pregnancy.”

    In one of the studies Coleman examined, women ranked their level of happiness after an abortion on a scale from one (“not at all” happy) to five (“a great deal” of happiness). The average response after an abortion was 2.24.
    “The passage of time apparently did not result in more positive emotions,” Coleman noted, “because two years after abortion the average rating dropped by a statistically significant amount to 2.06.”

    Future studies, she says, should explore the link her findings establish between abortion and both suicidal behavior and addiction. These behaviors “may result from efforts to block or avoid any psychological pain associated with the procedure, and may be construed as faster, easier remedies for personal suffering than seeking professional help.”

  2. Peggy Polaneczky, MD says:

    The study referenced above has been largely criticized – the authors met analysis included mostly her own studies, and did not control well enough for previous mental or psychiatric illness.

    As a doc who has been caring for women for over two decades, I can attest that I see no increase in psychiatric problems in my patients who have undergone abortions compared to those who have not. And in comparing women who choose to have an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy vs carrying that pregnancy to term, one would entirely expect that those with psychiatric issues such as depression or anxiety might choose not to become a parent at that time.

    Dr Coleman’s efforts would be better spent in trying to help us prevent unplanned pregnancies.

  3. Allan Wafkowski says:

    As a psychologist for over thirty years, let me suggest that your patients don’t relate post-abortion problems to you because they see you as an enabler to abortion.

    Dr. Polaneczky, The methods to inhibit pregnancies are so widely available as to be absurd: we have the sponge, the implant, the patch, pills, Depo-Provera, NuvaRing, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, the cervical cap, the male condom, the diaphragm, the female condom, the IUD, the morning after pill, spermicide, women’s sterilization, vascectomy, outercourse, and withdrawal. Last time I was in a public park, I had to walk around the spent condoms.

    And when all that fails we have abortion. In fact, we had more abortions last year in NYC that live births.

    Doctor, don’t you even have a clue that you are going about this the wrong way? To imply that Dr. Coleman is somehow out of it for not joining your failed minions is thoughtless.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles