Springfield, IL (November 10, 2009) — A study of women who experienced serious complications during pregnancy found that women who undergo late abortions due to fetal anomalies are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders compared to women who give birth prematurely.
The study of 170 German women, published in the “Archives of Women’s Mental Health,” found that 22 percent of women were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder after abortion, compared to 18 percent of women who gave birth to a baby with very low-birth-weight (VLBW) and 6 percent of women who had a healthy full-term pregnancy.
The abortions took place in the second or third trimester after an adverse diagnosis was given. VLBW was defined as having a birth weight of less than 1500 grams (about 3 pounds) or a birth before 32 weeks’ gestation. The women in the study were interviewed by mental health clinicians at 14 days, 6 months and 14 months after the end of the pregnancy.
While the three groups of women “did not differ significantly” on psychiatric disorders prior to abortion or delivery, the researchers noted a difference afterwards, with women who had abortions having the highest rates of psychiatric disorders. Further, 16 percent of women who had abortions had psychiatric disorders 14 months later, compared to 7 percent of women with preterm births and none of the women with healthy pregnancies.
The disorders found among women who had abortions included acute stress disorders, eating disorders, affective disorders and anxiety disorders, with depression and anxiety predominating over time. Just over 64 percent of aborting women in the study developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, a finding comparable to a survey published in the “Medical Science Monitor” that found 65 percent of women who aborted reported symptoms of PTSD that they attributed to their abortions.
The authors reported that for most women, abortions in the 2nd or 3rd trimester after a negative fetal diagnosis “are major life events” that can cause ongoing problems even months after the event. They called for more resources and better screening to help identify those who might be at risk for problems after abortion and need psychological support.
A. Kersting et. al., “Psychological impact on women after second and third trimester termination of pregnancy due to fetal anomalies versus women after preterm birth–a 14-month follow-up study,” Archives of Women’s Mental Health 12:193-201 (2009).