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Abortion and mental health: guidelines for proper scientific conduct ignored

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Toine Lagro-Janssen
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Email:
Chris van Weel
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Sylvie Lo Fo Wong
Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012 

We strongly disagree with the conclusions of Coleman’s analysis of research about the relation between abortion and mental health. Reference Coleman1 An earlier study by Munk-Olson et al, Reference Munk-Olsen, Laursen, Pedersen, Lidegaard and Mortensen2 not mentioned in the study, concluded that, contrary to what is generally assumed, a first-trimester induced abortion was not followed by an increase in mental disorders. The strength of the study is that mental health problems are studied in women before and after an induced abortion, and not only after. From Dutch primary care data, Reference van Weel3 we can confirm this: in a case–control study in family practice, we compared the medical history of women 3 years before and 3 years after they had an induced abortion with a control group. Reference Kooistra, Vastbinder and Lagro-Janssen4 Differences were found with regard to mental health (visits for mental health problems, psychopharmaceutical prescriptions or referrals to mental health facilities). However, compared with the control group, women who had an induced abortion had more social problems. This should be an important focus of attention in the care of women who choose to have an abortion.


1 Coleman, PK. Abortion and mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995–2009. Br J Psychiatry 2011; 199: 180–6.Google Scholar
2 Munk-Olsen, T, Laursen, TM, Pedersen, CB, Lidegaard, Ø, Mortensen, PB. Induced first-trimester abortion and risk of mental disorder. N Engl J Med 2011; 364: 332–9.Google Scholar
3 van Weel, C. The Continuous Morbidity Registration Nijmegen: background and history of a Dutch general practice database. Eur J Gen Pract 2008; 14: 5–12.Google Scholar
4 Kooistra, PAA, Vastbinder, MB, Lagro-Janssen, ALM. No increase in medical consumption in general practice after induced abortion. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 2007; 151: 409–13.Google Scholar
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