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Abortion and mental health 'linked'

Having an abortion increases the risk of mental health problems by 81%, according to a new study.

Compared to women who have not undergone a termination, those having one are significantly more likely to suffer issues, it found.

Furthermore, around one in 10 cases of mental health problems among women may be due to abortion.

Experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said their own research had found women were not at higher risk of mental health problems compared to those who fell pregnant accidentally and went on to have a baby.

The latest review of studies, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, is cited as the largest ever estimate of the mental health risks from abortion. It included 22 studies from 1995 to 2009 involving more than 877,000 women, of which almost 164,000 had had an abortion.

The research was carried out by Priscilla Coleman, professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

She found that while the overall increased risk of mental health problems was 81%, the results "indicate that the level of increased risk associated with abortion varies from 34% to 230% depending on the nature of the outcome (whether women abused drugs, alcohol, or suffered depression, and so on)".

Prof Coleman concluded: "The strongest effects were observed when women who had had an abortion were compared with women who had carried to term and when the outcomes measured related to substance use and suicidal behaviour."

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is currently carrying out a systematic review of the impact of abortion on women's mental health. Results will be published this autumn.

A spokesman for the RCOG said: "What this research does not fully examine is if these women had pre-existing mental health complications such as dependency issues and mood disorders before the abortion."

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