RCOG statement on induced abortion and mental health review

A systematic review looking at induced abortion and mental health has been published. It was developed for the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health and funded by the Department of Health.

The purpose of the review was to examine the relationship between induced abortion and mental health problems.

The main findings include:

  • When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, current evidence suggests that the rates of mental health problems will be unaffected whether the pregnancy is terminated or goes on to birth.
  • Where studies controlled for previous mental health problems, the prevalence rates reported after abortion were substantially lower than in studies where previous mental health problems were not accounted for.
  • The most reliable predictor of post-abortion mental health problems was having a history of mental health problems before the abortion.

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Dr Kate Guthrie, RCOG spokesperson, said:

“We welcome this new review which includes the latest evidence. The RCOG recently revised its own guidelines on the care of women requesting induced abortion, which reflected the above findings. The recommendations highlight the need for service providers to inform women about the range of emotional responses that may be experienced during and following an abortion.

“It is important that all women, and particularly those with a history of previous mental health problems, are offered appropriate support and if needed follow-up.

“It is essential that healthcare workers identify women that are vulnerable in any way and offer the appropriate aftercare.

“Abortion including aftercare is an essential part of women’s healthcare services, alongside access to contraception and family planning information.”

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