Women who have an abortion are at greater risk of suffering from anxiety and depression, according to a new study.
Researchers in New Zealand examined the medical history of over 500 women and concluded that those who reported having adverse reactions to a previous abortion were up to 80 per cent more likely to have mental health problems.
The University of Otago study warned that abortion “leads to significant distress in some” and said the risk of mental illness was “proportional to the degree of distress” associated with the abortion.
The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Professor David Fergusson, who led the research team, studied data from women who had been interviewed six times between the ages of 15 and 30.
Each time the women were asked whether they had been pregnant and, if so, what the outcome of that pregnancy had been.
Of those women who had undergone an abortion, more than 85 per cent reported at least one negative emotional reaction, including sorrow, sadness, guilt, regret, grief and disappointment.
A similar number reported at least one positive reaction, including relief, happiness and satisfaction.
Researchers found that women who reported at least one negative reaction had rates of mental health problems “approximately 1.4 to 1.8 times higher than women not exposed to abortion.”
In England and Wales women are allowed to have an abortion on grounds of mental health risks, but the study’s findings were not able to conclude whether allowing women to have an abortion would reduce their risk of mental health problems.
The report concluded that the evidence raised questions about “the practice of justifying termination of pregnancy on the grounds that this procedure will reduce risks of mental health problems in women having unwanted pregnancy.”
It continued: “Currently there is no evidence to support the assumptions underlying this practice, and the findings of the present study suggest that abortion may, in fact, increase mental health risks among those women who find seeking and obtaining an abortion a distressing experience.”
The authors said their report could not prove that having an abortion would lead to “devastating consequences for women’s mental health”.
But they also admitted that it could not back the pro-abortion stance that terminating an unwanted pregnancy “is without mental health risks.”
It has been reported that earlier results from the same study found that more than 40 per cent of those who had an abortion suffered depression afterwards, nearly double the rate of those who had never been pregnant.
At the time researchers said the findings “clearly pose a challenge” to the use of mental health reasons to justify abortion.
Over 200,000 abortions take place in Great Britain every year, with over 90 per cent performed on the legal ground that continuing with the pregnancy would put the mother’s mental health at risk.
But the researchers behind the study said there was no evidence to suggest that having an abortion reduced the risk of mental health problems.
These findings were echoed in the results of another study showing that women who lose a baby by the age of 21 – either through an abortion or a miscarriage – were at three times the risk of developing a drug or alcohol problem compared with women who either had no pregnancy or those who had a child.
Researcher Kaeleen Dingle, of the University of Queensland, Australia, said: “Abortion and miscarriage are stressful life events that have been shown to lead to anxiety, sadness and grief and, for some women, serious depression and substance use disorders.”