An abortion can cause years of mental anguish, anxiety, guilt and even shame, a BMC Medicine study suggests.
University of Oslo researchers compared 40 women who had had a miscarriage with 80 who chose to have an abortion.
Miscarriage was associated with more mental distress in the six months after the loss of a baby – but abortion had a much longer lasting negative effect.
The researchers said their work underlined the importance of giving women information about the psychological effects of losing a baby – either through miscarriage or abortion.
The Oslo team found that, after 10 days, 47.5% of women who had miscarried suffered from some degree of mental distress compared with 30% of the abortion group.
The proportion of women who had a miscarriage suffering distress decreased during the study period, to 22.5% at six months and to just 2.6% at two years and five years.
But among the abortion group 25.7% were still experiencing distress after six months, and 20% at five years.
The researchers also said that women who had an abortion had to make an effort to avoid thinking about the event.
The researchers, led by Anne Nordal Broen, said the responses of the women in the miscarriage group were similar to those expected after a traumatic life event.
(Broen et al. BMC 2005 December 12:3, 18)