Monday, 11 April 2011

The Royal College of Psychiatrists consultation document on abortion and mental health is worthy of serious study and measured response

Some people have expressed concern about an article published in the Daily Telegraph yesterday which reported on a new consultation by the Royal College of Psychiatrists looking at the relationship between abortion and mental health.

The Telegraph headline ‘Abortion doesn't harm mothers' mental health’ is actually seriously misleading and the whole piece is somewhat simplistic, superficial and selective in its reporting of the facts.

The RCPsych draft document did conclude that ‘mental health outcomes are likely to be the same, whether women with unwanted pregnancies opt for an abortion or birth’.

However it also made the point that 'women with mental health problems prior to abortion or birth are associated with increased mental health problems after the abortion or birth'.

Furthermore it stressed that 'if women who have an abortion show a negative emotional reaction to the abortion, or are experiencing stressful life events, support and monitoring should be offered as they are more likely than others to develop a mental health problem.'

Just as puerperal psychosis following birth can be very serious, in like manner some women experience serious mental health problems following induced abortion.

This is a consultation that is going to run for twelve weeks (closing 29 June) and all we have so far is a draft report. The most controversial issue will be the debate about which of the over 5,000 studies on this issue in the scientific literature were included and which were not and why.

It is noteworthy that the Royal College of Psychiatrists have given two recent systematic reviews which play down the link between abortion and mental health (APA and Charles) a more critical analysis than that given by the RCOG and the pro-choice movement.

Their 118 page report is a comprehensive piece of work worthy of serious study and measured response.

Furthermore it is coming out at a time when parliament will be considering two important amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill aimed at ensuring better advice and counselling for women with unplanned pregnancies.

We should be grateful that, unlike the RCOG, the RCPsych have given us a twelve week consultation period to consider it.

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