Research published in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, reveals that for women with a history of a treated mental disorder, who had their first induced abortion within the first-trimester of pregnancy, are not at a higher risk of readmission to psychiatric facilities.

Background information in the article states:

"Diverging results exist as to whether induced abortions negatively influence mental health, and there is a paucity of sound studies on the topic. Mental health problems are associated with women's reproductive decisions, and predict poor mental health outcomes after abortion. Moreover, most abortions are a result of unintended pregnancies, and the effects of induced abortion are often confounded with the effects of an unwanted pregnancy."

Trine Munk-Olsen, Ph.D., of the National Centre for Register-Based Research at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and her team, decided to assess whether there is a risk of psychiatric readmission in women with mental disorders who had a first-trimester induced abortion in comparison with the risk of readmission amongst women with mental disorders who gave birth.

The researchers collected data on all women with a record of one or more psychiatric admissions at least nine months before a first-time first-term induced abortion or childbirth, who were born in Denmark between 1962 and 1992, and found 2,838 eligible women who underwent a first-time first-trimester abortion between January 1994 and December 2007.

According to the findings, the readmission rate during the study period from 9 months prior to the abortion up to 12 months afterwards was 321 women, in comparison with a readmission rate of 273 women from 5,293 women with records of mental disorders who gave birth to their first live-born child.

The researchers noted that the risk of readmission in the abortion group declined from before to after the abortion, with the basic readmission risk in the abortion group decreasing from 211 per 1,000 person-years nine months prior to the abortion to 39 per 1,000 person-years 12 months following the abortion. Incidence rates of readmission both before and after the event were in general notably higher amongst the abortion group than readmission rates amongst those who gave birth, but were higher during the first month post-partum in those who gave birth.

The risk of readmission was higher in those with a parental history of mental disorders, but reduced in women who had one or more children at the time of abortion. In addition, the researchers established a substantial link in the risk of re-hospitalization with the number of days since previous discharge in both groups of women.

The researchers conclude:

"Risk of readmission is similar before and after a first-trimester induced abortion, contrasting with a marked increased readmission risk within the first month after childbirth. We speculate that recent psychiatric episodes may influence women's decisions to have an induced abortion; however, this decision does not appear to influence the illness course in women with a history of treated mental disorders."

Written by Petra Rattue