LifeNews 19 December 2014
Voluntary guidelines for post-abortion mental health evaluations during the month following an abortion have failed to significantly decrease the rate of suicide after abortion in Finland, according to a new study.
Finland adopted the guidelines after a large-scale study of women’s health records, published in 1997, found that the suicide rate among women who had undergone abortions in the prior year was three times higher compared to women in the general population and six times higher compared to women who gave birth.
Mika Gissler of the National Institute for Health and Welfare, who was the lead author of the 1997 study, led a team of researchers who examined health records to see if the suicide rate went down after the new guidelines were published.
They found that the decrease in the suicide rate was not statistically significant.
“Women with a recent induced abortion still have a two-fold suicide risk,” they wrote. “A mandatory check-up may decrease this risk.”
Officials in Australia Also Concerned
The increased risk of suicide following abortion has been recognized in Australia as well. The 2013 Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council report noted:
Suicide is the leading cause of death in women within 42 days after their pregnancy and between 43 days and 365 days after their pregnancy. There appears to be a significant worldwide risk of maternal suicide following termination of pregnancy and, in fact, a higher risk than that following term delivery.
The potential for depression and other mental health issues at this time needs to be better appreciated. Active follow-up of these women needs to happen. Practitioners referring women for termination of pregnancy or undertaking termination of pregnancy should ensure adequate follow-up for such women, especially if the procedure is undertaken for mental health concerns.
Council chairman Professor Michael Humphrey said that “the number of suicides was a key concern,” according to a report in the Queensland Courier-Mail:
“It’s pretty scary,” Prof. Humphrey said. “But this is not just happening in Queensland or Australia. The incidence of suicide in relation to maternal deaths is also seen very clearly in reports coming out of New Zealand and the UK. It’s a major phenomenon.’’
He said some women had taken their own lives within a year of having an abortion.
“There’s a lot of evidence that a significant proportion of women who have termination of pregnancies do have mental health issues subsequently,’’ Prof. Humphrey said. “Whether they are mental health issues related to the reason why the woman had the termination or whether they’re related to regret afterwards, we don’t know.”
Besides the Finland study, large record-based studies from the United States and Denmark have found that overall death rates were higher among women following abortion compared to those among women who had given birth.