Background: Although a number of studies have used survey data to examine the relationship between abortion and depression, none adjusted their estimates for pre-pregnancy depression. The purpose of this study was to test if abortion is associated with a different risk of major depression (MD) symptomatology than other pregnancy outcomes after adjusting for prior depression.
Material/methods: The current study used data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a representative sample of women living in large US cities who recently gave birth. Participants were administered the Composite International Diagnostic Interview - Short Form (CIDI-SF) during the first and second follow-up interviews. Changes in depressive symptoms from the first to the second follow-up interviews were related to abortion and other pregnancy outcomes including giving birth and miscarriage.
Results: Women who had an abortion between the first and second follow-up interviews were almost twice as likely to have symptoms of MD as women who did not become pregnant. This difference could not be explained by factors such as race, ethnicity, age, education, household income, number of children, or prior depressive symptomatology. In fact, after adjusting for these factors, abortion was still associated with a more than two-fold increase in the likelihood of having depressive symptoms at second follow-up (OR=2.15, 95% CI: 1.01 to 4.57, p=0.047). Giving birth was associated with a statistically comparable increase in the likelihood of having the symptoms of MD.
Conclusions: The results suggest that the positive association between abortion and depressive symptoms cannot be explained by pre-pregnancy depression. Women who have an abortion are not at higher risk of MD than those who give birth.