Having an abortion won’t increase risk of depression in women, study finds

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It may be the toughest decision in the lives of countless women, but researchers want those women to know that a new study shows having an abortion won’t lead them down a road of depression.

Despite numerous studies indicating that abortions don’t cause serious harm to women’s mental health, pseudo-scientific studies showing the opposite continue to be published, researchers say, and governmental restrictions on the procedure have been justified by its perceived detriment to mental health.

The study, led by Dr. Julia Steinberg, an assistant professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Family Science, included information on nearly 400,000 Danish women born between 1980 and 1994. They analyzed abortion numbers, childbirths, and antidepressant prescriptions as recorded by the Danish National Registries.

The study showed that antidepressant use was unchanged from year to year after an abortion.

“Policies based on the notion that abortion harms women’s mental health are misinformed,” Steinberg says in a university release. “Abortion is not causing depression. Our findings show that women were not more likely to suffer from depression after an abortion compared to beforehand.”

When compared to women who did not have an abortion, those who did had a higher rate of antidepressant use. But Dr. Steinberg says the higher risk of depression was the same for both the year before and the year after the abortion. This shows that the higher risk of depression is not caused by the abortion, but other factors such as pre-existing mental health problems and trauma.

The study was published in JAMA Psychology.

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