Majority feel having an abortion was the right decision: Research

Evelyn Lewin

15/01/2020 3:23:41 PM

A new large-scale study on women’s feelings following a termination found most experience relief, not regret, five years on from the procedure.

Woman waiting for procedure
Approximately 95% of study participants reported at each data-collection wave through five years that having an abortion was the right decision.

‘I think this in an important study to have been published to add emphasis to what clinicians have known for a long time, which is that women feel relief after an abortion, rather than regret.’
That is Professor Danielle Mazza, Head of the Department of General Practice at Monash University and Director of SPHERE Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Primary Care.
She is referring to a new study, one of the largest on the topic, on women’s feelings following abortion.
Approximately 95% of participants reported at each data-collection wave through five years that having an abortion was the right decision.
The study also found that only 6% of women expressed primarily negative emotions five years after a termination.
Conversely, 84% had either positive emotions, or no emotions, about their decision.
The researchers came to these conclusions using five years of longitudinal data. The data was collected one week post-abortion and then semi-annually for five years, from 956 women who sought terminations of pregnancy at 30 facilities in the US between 2008 and 2010.
Participants were on average 25 years of age at baseline, and mean gestation was 15 weeks.
In a background to this research, the authors noted that ‘claims that abortion is inherently stressful and causes negative emotions and regret undergirds state-level laws regulating abortion in the United States’.
‘For years … there has been a belief promulgated or a claim made that we really need to protect women from the emotional harm that many of them will suffer from when having an abortion,’ lead researcher Corinne Rocca, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in the University of Southern California Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Sciences, said.
Professor Mazza said researchers found that women’s emotions relating to abortion related to two main issues.
‘The first one is the degree of difficulty they have in making the decision, and that’s related to their personal context in terms of whether or not they already have children… [whether it is an] unplanned pregnancy, the context of the pregnancy [and so on],’ she told newsGP.
Indeed, the research found that at the time of termination 27% of women felt that the decision was very difficult, while a further 27% described the decision as somewhat difficult.

The second issue, Professor Mazza said, related to stigma.
‘Very worryingly, 70% said that they would feel stigmatised if people knew they’d had an abortion,’ Professor Mazza said.
Furthermore, the research found that women who felt stigmatised were more likely to report feeling guilt, anger or sadness immediately after abortion.
‘It’s really important to stress that stigmatisation is part of the problem,’ Professor Mazza said.
‘In primary care, one of the ways we can decrease stigma around abortion is by incorporating it into comprehensive women’s health service delivery in general practice, and we have the ability to do that through medical abortion.
‘The more GPs actually undertake this role, the less stigmatised abortion will be in the community because it will be seen as part of healthcare that’s delivered in general practice.’

Professor Danielle Mazza believes study adds emphasis to the fact that women are more likely to feel relief, rather than regret, following a termination of pregnancy.

The research noted that negative feelings relating to stigma declined dramatically over time.
‘The results are really very strong, in that they point to 99% of women at the end of the study feeling relief, rising from 97% in the first year,’ Professor Mazza said.
‘So [negative] emotions dissipate after the first year, and the relief just continues to build.’
Professor Mazza believes there are a few important messages GPs can take away from this study.
Firstly, she said, the study helps dispel the notion that having a termination of pregnancy can lead to mental health issues.
‘The results are very clear that there’s no proof of mental health disorders arising out of abortion and that the predominant outcome is relief for women,’ she said.
‘It should really hit on the head this notion that mental health issues arise as a result of abortion.
‘There’s no evidence for that. This is yet another study confirming that, so the issue should not be part of counselling.’
Professor Mazza said that, in the US, there is state-based legislation that says doctors have to tell women there may be ‘mental health consequences’ as a result of abortion.
‘That’s clearly wrong,’ she said
‘It’s not evidence-based, and that needs to be very clearly opposed and it should not enter into the consultation.’
Professor Mazza said this research can also offer reassurance to patients concerned about how they may feel after a termination.
‘GPs can tell women that the studies show the overwhelming majority of women feel relief after they make the decision to have an abortion and go through with that,’ she said.
Furthermore, Professor Mazza said this research highlights the need for proper counselling.
‘GPs need to allow women to talk about the issues that are concerning them in making a decision to try and help them to clarify what path they’re going to go down as to whether they’re going to persist with the pregnancy, or seek an abortion,’ she said.
Ms Rocca echoed Professor Mazza’s thoughts on the study’s findings.
‘All the claims that negative emotions will emerge over time, a myth that has persisted for decades without any evidence to substantiate these claims, it’s clear it’s just not true,’ she told CNN.
The one thing Ms Rocca said she found surprising about the results of her study was that, regardless of how a woman felt before their abortion, what remained after five years was an overwhelming feeling of relief.
‘One might think that relief was a short-term feeling that would go away after weeks, but it does not fade like the other feelings,’ she said.
‘Relief was constant.’
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Dr Tawhid Mohamed Sayed Hassanien   16/01/2020 10:24:28 AM

1- it is my personal exerience that most women feel relieved after termination of pregnancy
2- I agree that mental health issues are not consequences of termination. It is totally separate issue , which might be pre-existing
3- GP practice is the best place . However this is limited to medical termination only.
Here holistic approach is possible where contraception can be discussed.
4- early or very early TOP should be encouraged

Dr Joseph V Turner   16/01/2020 10:39:42 PM

These low actual numbers DO NOT provide "definitive support...that abortion does not lead to emergent negative emotions"

- only 37.5% of women consented to participate. Of the 62.5% who declined: the authors themselves state that even raising this issue with women can increase their negative emotions. It is thus possible that women who did have negative emotional/psych effects may have been less likely to participate when invited
- only 40% of these participants made the final analysis. Ie conclusions were based on only 22% of total invitees (667 of 3000)
- the 71% of participants left "in the final 2 years of the study" = 40% dropout rate. Why was retention at 5yrs not reported?

Prof Mazza asserts that it is "clearly wrong" & "not evidence-based" to inform women that there may be "mental health consequences"

So saying "the studies show the overwhelming majority of women feel relief" after abortion, given that this study was based on 22% of consenting participants, is untenable.

Dr Ewen Percival Cameron   18/01/2020 6:34:36 AM

What a load of codswallop that survey is.
Any fool can get a survey like that to get the result he or she wants.
We’re pathetic fools if we give it any credence in the discussion of this very important issue.
Teresa of Calcutta has a billion times the wisdom.
“If you hear of someone who does not want to have her child, who wants to have an abortion, bring the child to me and I will love that child, who is a sign of Gods love. “

Dr Ewen Percival Cameron   19/01/2020 3:20:23 PM

ProfMazza has previously indicated terminations should be no more difficult to access then appendicectomy.
Her cavalier support and encouragement of this studies apparent findings is simply wrong on all levels.
Any fool can make statistics show what they want especially on such a fraught issue.
Only someone who came down with todays showers would give any credence to this study in so far as affecting their attitude to terminations and the counselling of patients.
Surely there has to be a moral aspect in any discussion of the taking of a potential Human Life
Of course if we think we’re Gods we can send thunder and lightning where we want and not bother with the wisdom of the ages.
There are complex cases , a very small minority needing wise and compassionate care by a diverse group.
Other cases are very first world with one or more partners simply having a bad hair day.
Teresa of Calcutta, had her own approach.
She said send me the babies and I will love 💔 them.

Dr Ewen Percival Cameron   20/01/2020 6:22:54 AM

Intuitively most of us know that the statement “that how well any culture looks after it’s frail and elderly and vulnerable is a good measure of its health” is true.
If the same is true for the unborn then we and our world are in trouble.
And of course we are.
We need billions spent on band aid mental health initiatives as families and their values collapse.
Every day in General Practice gives glimpses into a mad bad sad world despite our great social and scientific achievements.
Many of the best and most inspiring patients cling on to the wisdom of the ages and would find our current attitudes and practices to terminations upsetting.