Magazine article Science News

Study Explores Abortion's Mental Aftermath

Magazine article Science News

Study Explores Abortion's Mental Aftermath

Article excerpt

Assessments of abortion's psychological risks to women invariably generate debate. Some case reports have described women's traumatic reactions to their abortions. Yet several studies find that rates of depression and other mental ailments in women receiving abortions remain stable for several months, at least after a first-trimester procedure.

A new investigation largely supports the view of abortion as psychologically benign for most women. Still, nearly one in five women report sadness, dissatisfaction, and regret about their abortions 2 years later, report psychologist Brenda Major of the University of California, Santa Barbara and her coworkers.

In their study, which appears in the August ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY, many of the women citing negative reactions to their abortions had suffered major depression at some time in their lives. A history of depression, therefore, may raise the likelihood of subsequent sadness and regret in any woman with an unintended pregnancy, whether or not she gets an abortion.

The researchers approached 1,177 randomly chosen women arriving at any of three abortion providers in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1993. A total of 442 of these women obtained a first-trimester abortion and completed psychological assessments 1 hour before the abortion and 1 hour, 1 month, and 2 years afterward.

The women completing the study were largely unwed teenagers and young adults. The sample contained a large number of whites and blacks but few Hispanics. …

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