As the abortion wars heat up once again, there’s a new study out that’s sure to add fuel to the fire. A leading medical journal reports that having an abortion may be less damaging to a woman’s mental health than having a baby.
The study — which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week — tracked 365,550 girls and women in Denmark who had a first-trimester abortion or first-time delivery between 1995 and 2007. Researchers selected females with no history of mental health problems prior to getting pregnant. They then compared the rate of mental health treatment (as measured by an inpatient admission or outpatient visit) within the 12 months after the abortion or childbirth as compared with the 9-month period preceding it.
The study found that women who had an abortion sought psychiatric treatment at roughly the same rate before and after that event, while the incidence with which women who gave birth sought counseling increased dramatically after having a baby.
Specifically, one percent of women sought help for possible mental disorders in the nine months before the abortion, while 1.5 percent did so in the 12 months that followed. On the other hand, 0.3 percent of women who gave live birth visited a psychiatrist for the first time in the nine months before birth compared to an average of 0.7 percent in the year that followed. So even though women seeking abortions are statistically more likely to have emotional problems to begin with, the study concludes they actually “suffer” less after the abortion than their counterparts who have children.
The scholars’ conclusion? Contrary to popular belief (and heretofore received scientific wisdom), women’s mental health is not seriously compromised by having an (early) abortion.
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Image: Pregnant Woman by Bete a Bon-Dieu via Flickr under a Creative Commons license