In China, Prior Abortion Linked to Depression, Anxiety in Later Pregnancies

In most states in America, the choice to abort a pregnancy is up to the woman carrying the fetus. Abortion has been vehemently defended and fought against since it was legalized in 1973. The right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term or abort is considered by women throughout the country on a daily basis. Factors such as health conditions and financial limitations often influence the decision a woman makes. However, in China, the decision to abort a pregnancy is often based only on the gender of the unborn child. Abortion is legal in China, and since the one-child law was enacted in 1979 in an effort to limit China’s population growth, many families choose to abort pregnancies that will result in a female child in order to try again for a son.

Spontaneous abortions occur in many pregnancies and result in the termination of the pregnancy. These usually happen in the first trimester and are completely unplanned and unexpected. However, the result of either spontaneous or induced abortion is the same, the termination of the pregnancy. Numerous studies have been conducted on how abortion negatively impacts the mental health of the mother. However, until now, few studies have compared the psychological ramifications of induced versus spontaneous abortions in women during their subsequent pregnancies. “Abortion represents a complex biological and psychological event, which is regarded as a difficult and distressing life event for a woman,” said Zhaohui Huang of the Department of Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health at the School of Public Health at Anhui Medical University in China, and author of a recent study.

Huang examined the levels of depression and anxiety in pregnant women with a history of either spontaneous or induced abortions. Of the 3,264 women studied, those with induced abortions reported higher levels of depression and anxiety in their first trimester than the women who had never had abortions. Huang also found that the women with no abortion history had similar levels of both anxiety and depression as those women who had experienced spontaneous abortions. Huang believes that Chinese women who have a history of induced abortions should be closely monitored during subsequent pregnancies for any psychological issues that could affect the well-being of their unborn child and their ability to care for that child.

Huang, Z., Hoa, J., Su, P., Huang, K., Xing, X., Cheng, D., et al. (2012). The impact of prior abortion on anxiety and depression symptoms during a subsequent pregnancy: Data from a population-based cohort study in China. Bulletin of Clinical Pschopharmacology22.1, 51-58.

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  • rafe

    June 18th, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    If you knew that you were responsible for killing an unborn child then wouldn’t you feel anxious and depressed too?

  • Traci

    June 19th, 2012 at 4:17 AM

    I do sympathize with these women in China. There is so much pressure placed upon them by their government to control the number of children that they have, yet for many the only form of birth control that they may have access to are these abortions that leave them depressed and scarred for life. I don’t blame them necessarily, because they have been taught that it is fine for them to have these abortions as long as they are looking out for the welfare of the Chinese population. But the men that put these rules into play have not looked at how horribly depressed a woman can become after submitting to such a procedure even when it may not be the right choice for them, and how this affects how they feel about having other children in the future. An abortion is about so much more than a physical procedure, it affects the mental health of a family too. But I really doubt that there is much support for the woman and her family after making the choice to have the abortion and limit the children who are born.

  • FoxyLady

    June 19th, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    What about the women who truly did feel like they were making the right choice by having an abortion?

    Not every abortion in the country, or anywhere for that matter, is forced or encouraged, There are honestly some families for whom they feel like this is the right choice for them at the time that they make that decisions.

    just because it might seem foreign to some of us, for others it seems like a better choice than bringing another child into this world who they can’t care for.

    I know, I know there are other options like adoption, etc. But some women think that this is the best way, and who am I to judge them for making that choice?

    The one thing that I hope will come of this is that more of us will at least have a better understanding that the actions of the past can come back to haunt you later and it is important for these women to to not be forgotten just because you may or may not agree with the life choices that they have made.

  • Logan Spence

    June 20th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Do we really think that China, a country that so devalues life in the first place, is going to care too much if these few women out of a billion are struggling with depression? My guess is no, they are expendable, always someone else to fill that population void.

  • sven

    June 21st, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    I had no idea that in China there were still so many families willing to abort their female children in the hopes of having that one child that will be a male. Look, I am a male, and even I know that sometimes all that we are cracked up to be! And besides, who do they think that these boy babies are going to one day procreate with if all of the females are snuffed ot? Think, people!

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