Skip to content

    Health & Pregnancy

    Font Size

    Abortion Impact: Long-Term Stress?

    Study Shows Stress and Anxiety From Abortion Up to 5 Years Later

    Debate Over Abortion Stress

    The debate over the emotional impact of abortion is a contentious one, with pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates not surprisingly having very different views of the issue.

    Some people contend that a form of posttraumatic stress is common among women who have had elective abortions. But neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association officially recognizes such a syndrome.

    University of California, San Francisco psychiatry professor Nancy Adler, PhD, conducted some of the first studies on the psychological impact of abortion. She says it would be impossible to do a study that definitively answered the question.

    "You would have to assign women with unwanted pregnancies to either have an abortion or give birth, and that would never happen," she tells WebMD.

    "There is no denying that the experience of unwanted pregnancy is very stressful for most women, and so is the decision about what to do about it. But we are not seeing evidence of long-term trauma at the clinical level."

    Yale University psychiatry professor Kimberly Yonkers, MD, agrees. She points out that both groups in the study showed improvements over time in most measures of psychological stress. She also expressed concerns about the study's small sample size but said one of the study's strengths was that it followed the women for so long.

    "I don't think it is much of a surprise that there was residual guilt and shame following the voluntary termination of a pregnancy," she says. "This is not the kind of thing that someone does and never thinks about again. But I don't believe in postabortion syndrome because I haven't seen it. And I don't think these data show it in any way, shape or form."

    1 | 2

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
    slideshow fetal development
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    What Causes Bipolar
    Woman trying on dress in store
    pregnant woman
    Woman looking at pregnancy test
    calendar and baby buggy
    dark chocolate squares