Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mental Health Care After An Abortion

Women No More Likely To Seek Mental Health Care After An Abortion Than Before

Women who had abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy were no more likely to seek care for serious mental health issues after the procedure than they were before, while women who gave birth had an increased risk of mental health issues after delivery, according to a study by Danish researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Reuters reports. The researchers looked at records of 365,550 teenagers and women who had an abortion or first-time delivery between 1995 and 2007; of those women, 84,620 had an abortion and 280,930 gave birth. The researchers looked at women who had mental health issues severe enough to have been admitted to the hospital or receive outpatient care at a clinic, but not mild depression (Emery, Reuters, 1/26).

Within the first year after an abortion, 15 out of every 1,000 women received psychiatric counseling, similar to the rate who sought such care nine months before an abortion. Among women who gave birth, seven in every 1,000 sought mental health help within a year of giving birth, compared with four of every 1,000 who sought care before delivery.

"A woman should know that her risk of having a psychiatric episode is not increased" after an abortion," lead researcher Trine Munk-Olsen of Aarhus University, said. The findings echo the results of a 2008 American Psychological Association report that found no evidence that having an abortion affects a woman's mental health.

Robert Blum, head of reproductive health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, said the study is comparable to the United States, which had similar access to abortion as Denmark. "Anyone who's ever had a baby knows it's stressful," he said, adding, "That stress doesn't go away in a week or two" (AP/USA Today, 1/26). Blum praised the study for reaffirming that "There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems" and that there is "no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome" (Shute, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/27).

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