Women's Mental Health After Abortion

Martha Shuping
Reproduced with Permission

+ Increased Drug and Alcohol Abuse after Induced Abortion

Many studies have shown significant associations between induced abortion and drug and alcohol abuse.1,2,3,4,5,6 Some studies show substance use problems starting after an abortion, not before.7,8

+ Increased Drug and Alcohol Abuse during Subsequent Pregnancy after Abortion, Increasing Risk of Poor Pregnancy Outcomes

Mothers with a history of previous abortion are more likely to use illegal drugs and alcohol during subsequent pregnancy.9,10,11,12,13,14 In a study of pregnant women, there was no difference in risk of substance abuse between women who wanted the pregnancy compared to those who did not want the pregnancy. But higher rates of drug abuse during pregnancy were found in women who had a previous abortion compared to women who had no prior abortion.15 An increase in drug and alcohol abuse among women is a special concern because substance abuse during pregnancy has been linked to poor pregnancy and birth outcomes.16,17

+ Increased Risk of Suicide after Induced Abortion

A large record based study in Finland reported a 650% higher risk of suicide after abortion compared to women who carried to term. This study linked actual death certificates to medical records.18

A study of more than 173,000 California Medicaid records showed an increased rate of suicide that persisted for 8 years, which was not explained by prior mental illness.19

A records based U.K. report comparing suicide attempts before and after abortion indicated the increase in suicide rates after abortion was not related to prior suicidal behavior but was most likely related to adverse reactions to the abortion.20

There are reports of attempted or completed suicides coinciding with the anniversary date of the abortion or expected due date of the aborted child.21,22

+ Increased Clinical Depression after Induced Abortion

In Fergusson's 2006 study (New Zealand), women had increased rates of depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts after abortion; the association persisted after controlling for confounding factors.23

A 2003 review article, all large, long term studies in English through 2002, concluded that abortion was clearly associated with depression serious enough to cause risk of self-harm, and that women should be warned in the informed consent process.24

+ Increased Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after Induced Abortion

Studies show Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and symptoms of posttraumatic stress are experienced by post-abortive women.25,26 Post-abortive women in Russia and U.S. had higher scores on a trauma test compared to a population of battered women.27 PTSD has been shown to be a predictor of poor general health.28 Effects of trauma can be very long-lasting, with The National Comorbidity Study showing that more than one third of people with this disorder fail to recover even after many years.29


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23 Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Ridder EM. Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry 2006; 47(1): 16-24. [Back]

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26 Barnard C. The Long-Term Psychological Effects of Abortion. 1990. Portsmouth, NH: Institute for Pregnancy Loss. [Back]

27 Rue, op. cit. [Back]

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