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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 60 (2018) 8, 527 - 535


Abortion and the risk of mental disorders

J. van Ditzhuijzen, M. ten Have, R. de Graaf, C.H.C.J. van Nijnatten, W.A.M. Vollebergh

background Research into the potential mental health consequences of abortion yields inconsistent results and is characterized by methodological limitations.
aim To offer a more conclusive insight into women’s mental health after an abortion by stringently taking both pre-abortion mental health and confounding covariates into account.
method A prospective longitudinal cohort study, the Dutch Abortion and Mental Health Study (damhs), through which women with and without abortion experiences could be compared. The study was designed in a similar way to the large scale Dutch population study into mental health of the Trimbos Institute, the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (nemesis-2).
results Women who had an abortion were significantly more likely to have had previous dsm-iv mental disorders. Psychiatric history appeared to be associated with how women experienced and handled the unwanted pregnancy and abortion. A prior history of mental disorders, averse recent life events or an unstable partner relationship increased the risk of developing post abortion mental disorders, while experiencing an abortion did not.
conclusion Women who have had an abortion more often have a history of mental disorders, yet there is no evidence that an abortion in itself would increase the risk of developing a mental disorder.

keywords abortion, common mental disorders, psychiatric epidemiology, unwanted pregnancy