The effects of induced abortion on emotional experiences and relationships: a critical review of the literature

Clin Psychol Rev. 2003 Dec;23(7):929-58. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2003.09.001.


This paper reviews post-1990 literature concerning psychological experiences and sexual relationships prior to and following induced abortion. It assesses whether conclusions drawn from earlier reviews are still supported and evaluates the extent to which previous methodological problems have been addressed. Following discovery of pregnancy and prior to abortion, 40-45% of women experience significant levels of anxiety and around 20% experience significant levels of depressive symptoms. Distress reduces following abortion, but up to around 30% of women are still experiencing emotional problems after a month. Women due to have an abortion are more anxious and distressed than other pregnant women or women whose pregnancy is threatened by miscarriage, but in the long term they do no worse psychologically than women who give birth. Self-esteem appears unaffected by the process. Less research has considered impact on the quality of relationships and sexual functioning, but negative effects were reported by up to 20% of women. Conclusions were generally concordant with previous reviews. However, anxiety symptoms are now clearly identified as the most common adverse response. There has been increasing understanding of abortion as a potential trauma, and studies less commonly explore guilt. The quality of studies has improved, although there are still some methodological weaknesses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Abortion, Spontaneous
  • Adult
  • Anxiety*
  • Depression
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Sexuality*