New Study: Abortion Can Lead to Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

International   |   Amy Sobie   |   Mar 21, 2013   |   11:23AM   |   Washington, DC

A new study has found that women with a history of induced abortion were more likely to experience metabolic syndrome compared to women who had never had abortions, increasing their risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.

Women who had a history of induced abortion were 1.25 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome compared to women who had never had abortions. No significant association was found between women who had a history of spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage, and increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

The study, carried out in China, looked at 6,302 women aged 40 or over who answered questionnaires about their lifestyles and medical and reproductive histories, and underwent medical tests.

The researchers found that a history of induced abortion at an early age “could confer a high risk” for metabolic syndrome later in life and that the risk increased with each abortion.

“Our data add to the evidence that induced abortion might cause potential long-term health consequences,” they wrote in their paper, citing studies linking abortion to increased rates of breast cancer in women.

The data confirms findings from an earlier record-based study of approximately 173,000 California women, which found that women with a history of abortion were almost twice as likely to die in the following years compared to women who carried to term, and that the higher mortality rate of aborting women persisted over at least eight years.

Over the eight year period studied, women who aborted had a 446 percent higher risk of death from cerebrovascular disease. The overall death rate from natural causes was 44 percent higher for women who aborted.

Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, the lead author of the California study, said that while higher rates of death from suicides and accidents were most pronounced during the first four years after abortion, deaths from natural causes increased during the later years of the period studied.

“This could reflect long term damage from problems such as depression and anxiety on women’s cardiovascular and immune systems,” Reardon said. “Depression is a known cause of heart disease.”

The authors of the Chinese study also pointed to depression as a possible cause for higher rates of metabolic syndrome among aborting women in their study, noting that long-term psychological depression has been found in other studies to be a marker for such problems.

Previous studies have found higher rates of depression among women who had a history of induced abortion, including two studies co-authored by Reardon. One study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that women who aborted had a significantly higher risk of clinical depression an average of eight years after a first unintended pregnancy compared to women who carried to term.

The other was a longitudinal study of American women that revealed that those who aborted were 65 percent more likely to be at risk of long-term clinical depression after controlling for age, race, education, marital status, history of divorce, income, and prior psychiatric state.

A 2011 meta-analysis of 22 studies published between 1995 and 2009, which included data on 877,181 women from six countries, found that women with a history of induced abortion faced 34 percent higher depression rates compared to women who gave birth.


Xu B, Zhang J, Xu Y, Lu J, Xu M, Chen Y, Bi Y, Ning G. Association between history of abortion and metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and elderly Chinese women. Front Med. 2013 Mar;7(1):132-7. doi: 10.1007/s11684-013-0250-x. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

DC Reardon et. al. Deaths Associated With Pregnancy Outcome: A Record Linkage Study of Low Income Women. Southern Medical Journal. 95(8):834-41 (2002).

Reardon DC, Cougle JR. Depression and unintended pregnancy in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth: a cohort study. British Medical Journal. 324: 151-152.

Cougle JR, Reardon DC, Coleman PK. Depression associated with abortion and childbirth: a long-term analysis of the NLSY cohort. Medical Science Monitor. 2003; 9(4): CR105-112.

Coleman PK. Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009. The British Journal of Psychiatry. (2011) 199, 180-186. Note: Amy Sobie is the editor of The Post-Abortion Review, a quarterly publication of the Elliot Institute. The organization is a widely respected leader in research and analysis of medical, mental health and other complications resulting from abortions.