Incidence and recurrence of common mental disorders after abortion: Results from a prospective cohort study


Research in the field of mental health consequences of abortion is characterized by methodological limitations. We used exact matching on carefully selected confounders in a prospective cohort study of 325 women who had an abortion of an unwanted pregnancy and compared them 1-to-1 to controls who did not have this experience. Outcome measures were incidence and recurrence of common DSM-IV mental disorders (mood, anxiety, substance use disorders, and the aggregate measure ‘any mental disorder’) as measured with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) version 3.0, in the 2.5–3 years after the abortion. Although non-matched data suggested otherwise, women in the abortion group did not show significantly higher odds for incidence of ‘any mental disorder’, or mood, anxiety and substance use disorders, compared to matched controls who were similar in background variables but did not have an this experience. Having an abortion did not increase the odds for recurrence of the three disorder categories, but for any mental disorder the higher odds in the abortion group remained significant after matching. It is unlikely that termination of an unwanted pregnancy increases the risk on incidence of common mental disorders in women without a psychiatric history. However, it might increase the risk of recurrence among women with a history of mental disorders.

Journal of Psychiatric Research, 84, 200-206