Background: Individual and situational risk factors associated with negative postabortion psychological sequelae have been identified, but the degree of posttraumatic stress reactions and the effects of culture are largely unknown.
Material/methods: Retrospective data were collected using the Institute for Pregnancy Loss Questionnaire (IPLQ) and the Traumatic Stress Institute's (TSI) Belief Scale administered at health care facilities to 548 women (331 Russian and 217 American) who had experienced one or more abortions, but no other pregnancy losses.
Results: Overall, the findings here indicated that American women were more negatively influenced by their abortion experiences than Russian women. While 65% of American women and 13.1% of Russian women experienced multiple symptoms of increased arousal, re-experiencing and avoidance associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 14.3% of American and 0.9% of Russian women met the full diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Russian women had significantly higher scores on the TSI Belief Scale than American women, indicating more disruption of cognitive schemas. In this sample, American women were considerably more likely to have experienced childhood and adult traumatic experiences than Russian women. Predictors of positive and negative outcomes associated with abortion differed across the two cultures.
Conclusions: Posttraumatic stress reactions were found to be associated with abortion. Consistent with previous research, the data here suggest abortion can increase stress and decrease coping abilities, particularly for those women who have a history of adverse childhood events and prior traumata. Study limitations preclude drawing definitive conclusions, but the findings do suggest additional cross-cultural research is warranted.