Having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk for depression, according to a new study of nearly 400,000 women.
Previous research has found abortion does not harm women’s mental health, some studies claim that it does.
In addition, state policies that restrict access to abortion in the United States have been justified by claims that abortion causes women psychological harm.
To better understand the relationship between having an abortion and women’s mental health, researchers from the University of Maryland analyzed data on Danish women born between 1980-1994.
The data included abortions, childbirths and antidepressant prescriptions as recorded by the Danish National Registries.
Compared to women who did not have an abortion, those who did have an abortion had a higher risk of antidepressant use.
But the team stresses this higher risk was the same for both the year before and the year after the abortion.
This means the higher risk of depression is not due to the abortion but to other factors such as preexisting mental health problems and other adverse experiences.
Currently in the U.S. at least eight states, including North Carolina and West Virginia, mandate that women considering an abortion receive information that emphasizes the purported negative psychological effects of having an abortion.
Women in 27 states are required to wait a specified period of time, from 24-72 hours, between when they receive counseling and the abortion procedure is performed.
Such policies are often justified by the claim that abortion harms women’s mental health.
For those in regions of the country without a nearby abortion provider, this can be a significant burden.
With an increasing number of laws being enacted throughout the U.S. that aim to limit women’s access to abortion, the findings from the study provide important new evidence that can inform policy.
They also support the recent National Academies of Science report that having an abortion does not increase women’s risk of depression, anxiety or PTSD.
It is the first study to explore the risk of antidepressant use around an abortion as a proxy for depression.
The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.
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