Abstract

The majority of abortions carried out in the UK are done so on the grounds that continuing with the pregnancy would risk physical or psychological harm to the woman or child. However, there has been some concern in recent years that abortion itself may increase psychological risk and adversely affect the woman's mental health. Opinion on this has varied, partly due to limitations in the research, different interpretations of the evidence and the ethical, religious and political issues surrounding abortion. This report was commissioned to review the best available evidence on any association between induced abortion and mental health outcomes, and draw conclusions where possible.

The purpose of the review was to clarify the relationship between induced abortion and mental health problems. The review focused on women having a legal abortion for an unwanted pregnancy and the key questions posed were:

1. How prevalent are mental health problems in women who have an induced abortion?

2. What factors are associated with poor mental health outcomes following an induced abortion?

3. Are mental health problems more common in women who have an induced abortion, when compared with women who deliver an unwanted pregnancy?