“The risk of a psychiatric contact did not differ significantly before and after abortion, but the risk after childbirth was significantly greater than the risk before childbirth,” the study announced.
Dr. Bellieni said these conclusions seem to contradict some of the results of the study. In his view, the study's authors should have discussed the one-and-a-half times increase in the number of first psychiatric visits among women who had abortions.
He also pointed out that while the study discloses the difference in levels of first contact between the two groups, it does not highlight and discuss the reasons women who abort seek psychiatric help at more than two times the rate of the women who give live birth.
It also does not account for women who “hid” their abortions and did not seek help, he added.
There is a stigma to seeking psychiatric help following an abortion in countries where the procedure is legal, noted the doctor.
“You have no right to complain about sickness after an abortion, they say, because it is a 'right' and a 'normal thing,’” he said. “So to say that you are sick after an abortion is heresy in a Western country."
The study does acknowledge the possibility that women who had had abortions and not sought help may have been underestimated in its results.
In addition, while studying “first-time” contact with mental health professionals, researchers excluded those women who may have had prior contact or on-going mental health care.
Bellieni said these categories of women should have been included in the study’s sample population. The authors themselves recognize this limit to their study.
While the results tout the near-equal “risk of psychiatric contact” in women who seek help before and after the abortion, he said that there are more interesting patterns for study in the data.
Women who had abortions, for example, sought help at nearly the same rate for the entire 21 months included in the study, including the six-month period before their pregnancy.
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The study was based on the premise that abortions were carried out within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“I can understand that women who will seek abortions go [to a psychiatrist] when they learn they are pregnant, but it is obscure why they begin going in the few months before they knew,” Bellieni continued.
“It is unusual that healthy women, who had no previously recorded psychiatric visits, might seek help before the occurrence of the ‘traumatic event’ - in this case learning of a pregnancy.
“The authors should have explained this point,” Bellieni said.
There are other aspects that merit further examination in this regard, according to the doctor.
It is important to highlight that the rate of women who gave birth and sought “first contact” with mental health professionals, while spiking in the month after birth, decreased by at least one-half in the two months that followed.