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A comparison of depression and anxiety symptom trajectories between women who had an abortion and women denied one

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2015

D. G. Foster
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
J. R. Steinberg
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
S. C. M. Roberts
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
J. Neuhaus
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
M. A. Biggs*
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
*Address for correspondence: M. A. Biggs, Ph.D., Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), University of California, San Francisco, 1330 Broadway, Suite 1100, Oakland, CA 94612, USA. (Email:



This study prospectively assesses the mental health outcomes among women seeking abortions, by comparing women having later abortions with women denied abortions, up to 2 years post-abortion seeking.


We present the first 2 years of a 5-year telephone interview study that is following 956 women who sought an abortion from 30 facilities throughout the USA. We use adjusted linear mixed-effects regression analyses to assess whether symptoms of depression and anxiety, as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory-short form and the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire, differ over time among women denied an abortion due to advanced gestational age, compared with women who received abortions.


Baseline predicted mean depressive symptom scores for women denied abortion (3.07) were similar to women receiving an abortion just below the gestational limit (2.86). Depressive symptoms declined over time, with no difference between groups. Initial predicted mean anxiety symptoms were higher among women denied care (2.59) than among women who had an abortion just below the gestational limit (1.91). Anxiety levels in the two groups declined and converged after 1 year.


Women who received an abortion had similar or lower levels of depression and anxiety than women denied an abortion. Our findings do not support the notion that abortion is a cause of mental health problems.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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