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Abortion ‘does not lead to mental health problems’

A major claim of anti-abortion campaigners appears to have been undermined by a new study showing termination of pregnancy does not lead to mental health problems. Although women who had abortions were found to have a higher incidence of pre-existing mental health problems in a major new study relative to women who gave birth.

It is sometimes argued by opponents of abortion that the procedure can lead to psychiatric problems. Now a huge study in Denmark has failed to find a link between abortion and contact with psychiatrists. While there was a statistically significant increase in mental health problems after giving birth, there was no significant increase after abortion.

“The incidence rate of psychiatric contact was higher among girls and women who underwent an abortion than among those who underwent delivery, but this relationship was evident before the abortion or childbirth occurred,” write the team, led by Trine Munk-Olsen of Aarhus University. “On the basis of these results, it seems likely that girls and women having induced abortions constitute a population with higher psychiatric morbidity.”

The team looked through the medical records of all girls and women born in Denmark between 1962 and 1993 who were alive at age 15.

They picked out those who had no history of mental disorders 9 months before either their first abortion or their first childbirth. Of 84,620 who had a first-time, first-trimester abortion between 1995 and 2007, 1% had contact with a psychiatrist 9 months before the abortion and 1.5% had such contact 12 months after, they report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Of the 280,930 people who gave birth to their first child, the equivalents were 0.3% before and 0.7% after. There was no statistically significant increase in risk of psychiatric contact after an abortion but the risk was significantly greater after giving birth.


  1. Report this comment

    Cass said:

    This is ridiculous! One would have to do a case study of nearly every woman that had an abortion to get true results. I personally know of two individuals who have found themselves severely depressed after having an abortion. It is deeply personal, and developing a mental illness afterwards still has validity. The human mind is complex and each person unique to their response of choice and environment. We are the only species that I know of that chooses to destroy our young in the womb. We should develop a study about that!

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    wilder125 said:

    Yet, something happens or many of them wouldn’t be depressed after getting one.

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    Joyce said:

    Cass says, “We are the only species that I know of that chooses to destroy our young in the womb.”

    Not true. Rabbits, just to name one, will reabsorb fetuses into their wombs if there isn’t enough food to support a litter.

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    Alexandra said:

    I believe the point is that the mental health issue argument is not valid support for the pro-life argument. Many women become depressed after abortion as it is a difficult life choice to make, but it is not a hormonal/chemical issue, as with postpartum depression and therefore not an automatic mental health risk to every woman undergoing an abortion.

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    Brenda Tataryn said:

    Every single woman is an individual. Some see it as a life destroyed, some see at as not even a life yet.

    To connect mental illness with this choice in life is ridiculous. I know one woman who has had 3 and is sane as the day is long in summer.

    everyone is different.

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    Tom Rees said:

    I find it astonishing that readers of this blog, who are presumably scientifically literate, can respond to data on averages with specific cases that seemingly refute it.

    Folks, I know someone who smoked and didn’t die of cancer.

    Abortion doesn’t lead to mental health problems on average. For sure, some women will become distressed after an abortion. Others will be less distressed. Probably most will carry on as they did before.

    Also worth noting that this study was done in Denmark, where abortion is not stigmatized to the same degree that it is in some other countries.

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    Jenna said:

    I have known someone who had an abortion for 3 times. Now she decided to pursue her fourth child. The baby is already 2 yrs old now. She’s also doing fine. No mental problem or whatsoever.

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