It might be 2018, but a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body is still up for debate — and if you ever find yourself in the position of having to decide what to do when faced with an unexpected pregnancy, it’s important that you have all the information. According to a new study of nearly 400,000 women, depression is not linked to having an abortion, so if that’s something you’re considering, don’t let anyone convince you that making the best choice for you and your body is going to damage your mental health irreparably.
How did the researchers determine this? Here are the findings — and what it might mean for you if you ever decide to have an abortion someday.
3. Antidepressant use didn’t change before and after the abortion
Per Science Daily, back in May, researchers at the University of Maryland studied close to 400,000 women and their antidepressant use around the time that they had an abortion. Although women who have ended a pregnancy do have a higher use of antidepressants in general, it’s not any higher than it was before they had the abortion, which is proof that their mental health isn’t getting any worse after exercising their right to choose.
“Policies based on the notion that abortion harms women’s mental health are misinformed,” family science professor Dr. Steinberg said. “Abortion is not causing depression. Our findings show that women were not more likely to suffer from depression after an abortion compared to beforehand.”
Basically, this means that if you are prone to depression or already have it, that’s totally separate from abortion actually giving it to you. Terminating a pregnancy can’t give you depression if you’re otherwise mentally healthy.
2. Abortion also doesn’t increase your risk of other mental health issues
The study also mentioned that abortions don’t increase your risk of PTSD or anxiety, either, citing a recent report called The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States.
“Women who have abortions are more likely to use antidepressants compared with women who do not have abortions,” the study concluded, per the JAMA Network. “However, additional aforementioned findings from this study support the conclusion that increased use of antidepressants is not attributable to having had an abortion but to differences in risk factors for depression. Thus, policies based on the notion that abortion harms women’s mental health may be misinformed.”
1. Why is this such a big deal?
Unfortunately, even today, the threat of damaging your own mental health is something that is used to convince women not to abort their pregnancies — and it even crosses into the United States’ laws on the subject. Many states require women to receive counseling before they are able to get an abortion that informs them about the mental health risks… the same ones this study proves don’t exist.
And just in case you need more proof that depression and abortion aren’t linked, in 2016, a study out of the University of California that was also published in JAMA Network found that women are actually more anxious when they’re denied their right to choose. Want to improve women’s mental health? Don’t cut them off from medical procedures that they feel are necessary.
“There are policies and decisions being made with this assumption that abortion harms women’s mental health,” M. Antonia Biggs, the author of that study, said at the time. “We found that the women who were denied abortions had more anxiety, lower self-esteem, and less life satisfaction compared to women who [obtained them initially].”
It all makes sense. When a woman is denied an abortion, she is forced to go through a pregnancy that she didn’t want — of course that’s going to take a toll on her mentally and emotionally. But when a woman is able to confidently make the right choice for her along with the support of medical professionals, the effect of that choice is, understandably, far less negative.
The choice to terminate a pregnancy is a deeply personal one, and only you know whether or not it’s the right choice for you. But when making that decision, the psychological effects don’t need to be something you worry about. Depression can be really hard to cope with, and so can the idea of ending a pregnancy, but according to this research, it doesn’t sound like any negative emotions you feel that are associated with an abortion are permanent.