A report on maternal deaths in Queensland, Australia, has raised concerns about suicide following pregnancy, particularly after abortion. The Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council report noted:
Suicide is the leading cause of death in women within 42 days after their pregnancy and between 43 days and 365 days after their pregnancy. There appears to be a significant worldwide risk of maternal suicide following termination of pregnancy and, in fact, a higher risk than that following term delivery.
The potential for depression and other mental health issues at this time needs to be better appreciated. Active follow-up of these women needs to happen. Practitioners referring women for termination of pregnancy or undertaking termination of pregnancy should ensure adequate follow-up for such women, especially if the procedure is undertaken for mental health concerns.
Professor Michael Humphrey, the chairman of the council, said that “the number of suicides was a key concern,” according to the Queensland Courier-Mail:
“It’s pretty scary,” Prof. Humphrey said. “But this is not just happening in Queensland or Australia. The incidence of suicide in relation to maternal deaths is also seen very clearly in reports coming out of New Zealand and the UK. It’s a major phenomenon.’’
He said some women had taken their own lives within a year of having an abortion.
“There’s a lot of evidence that a significant proportion of women who have termination of pregnancies do have mental health issues subsequently,’’ Prof. Humphrey said. “Whether they are mental health issues related to the reason why the woman had the termination or whether they’re related to regret afterwards, we don’t know.”
Large-scale studies of maternal death rates in the U.S., Finland and Denmark have found higher death rates among women who had abortions compared to those who gave birth, including higher suicide rates.
Further, a 2011 study published in British Journal of Psychiatry found that 10 percent of mental health problems among women, including 35 percent of suicidal behaviors, may be attributable to abortion. These findings were based on the combined results of all studies published between 1995 and 2009 that met strict inclusion criteria. The resulting analysis included 877,181 women from six countries.
Women who aborted were 81 percent more likely to experience mental health problems compared to all other control groups, and 55 percent more likely to have problems compared to women who delivered an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
The Elliot Institute has called for congressional hearings to investigate the risks of suicide and other mental heath problems after abortion.
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