Study: Women More Likely to Face Depression After Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 13, 2012   |   12:06PM   |   Washington, DC

A new study conducted by scientists in China examining the psychological and mental health issues following women’s pregnancy decisions finds women who have abortions are much more likely to face depression and anxiety in a future pregnancy.

The researchers from Anhui Medical College in China published their results recently in the Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology in an article entitled “The Impact of Prior Abortion on Anxiety and Depression Symptoms during a Subsequent Pregnancy: Data From a Population-Based Cohort Study.”

They relied on data derived from the Anhui Birth Defects and Child Development Cohort Study and their sample consisted of 6,887 women, 3,264 (47.6%) of whom had experienced at least one abortion.

Their results showed women with a history of induced abortion a year or more prior were 49% more likely to experience depression and 114% more likely to experience anxiety in the first trimester of a subsequent pregnancy when compared to women who had not experienced an induced abortion. These results were obtained after controlling for maternal education, income, place of residence, and BMI scores.

When a prior abortion occurred within the past year, women experienced a 97% increased risk for experiencing anxiety during the first trimester after the above controls were instituted. When assessed during the second trimester, a prior induced abortion occurring less than a year earlier was related to a 64% greater risk of depression after instituting controls.

“The women with a history of induced abortions were significantly more likely to report more “cases” of depression during the first trimester than those with no history of abortion. Controlling for confounding variables yielded similar results,” they wrote. “These results suggest women who have experienced a previous induced abortion have omnipresent anxiety and depression symptoms during a subsequent pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.”

The results from the Chinese study also revealed that women with a history of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) were not at a greater risk for anxiety or depression in either the first or second trimester of a subsequent pregnancy, when compared to women without a history of spontaneous abortion. These results were obtained when the prior loss occurred within one year and when it occurred over a year before the current pregnancy.

As noted by this Chinese research team, “The social, moral, and psychological context of an induced abortion may be more complicated than that of that of a spontaneous abortion, and may result in different psychological experiences.”

Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a Bowling Green State University professor who is an expert on the mental health problems women face resulting from abortions commented on the new research.

She told LifeNews, “This study adds to the rapidly accumulating world literature on abortion and mental health. Even in a culture wherein abortion is widespread and is mandated by the government after women give birth once, the magnitude of psychological risks are comparable to those identified in other parts of the world (e.g., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, US).”

“The 1st trimester of a later pregnancy may be the most difficult time for women, who have experienced an induced abortion, since the majority of abortions occur early in pregnancy. This is disconcerting because all the major body structures are formed during the 1st trimester and stress hormones may potentially harm the developing fetus,” Coleman explained.

“The psychological experience of abortion is more likely to be associated with long-term psychological distress than spontaneous abortion,” Coleman continued. “Similar results were derived from studies conducted by Dr. Anne Broen in Norway.”

Citation: Huang, Z., Hao, J., Su, P. et al. (2012). The impact of prior abortion on anxiety and depression symptoms during a subsequent pregnancy: Data from a population-based cohort study in China. Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 22.