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For Immediate Release

 


Substance Abuse Among Pregnant Women
Linked to Prior Abortion in New Study

 

Springfield, IL (Dec. 2002) -- Women with a prior history of abortion are twice as likely to use alcohol, five times more likely to use illicit drugs, and ten times more likely to use marijuana during the first pregnancy they carry to term compared to other women delivering their first pregnancies, according to a study published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

 

The researchers conclude that higher rates of substance use during the subsequent pregnancies would place the newborn children of these women at higher risk of congenital defects, low birth weight, and death.

 

The research is based on the National Pregnancy and Health Survey, using a nationally representative sample of 2,613 women who had recently given birth.  The survey was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Division of Epidemiological and Prevention Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse for the purpose of providing the first national assessment of licit and illicit drug use and alcohol consumption among pregnant women. 

 

According to one of the study's authors, David Reardon, Ph.D., who specializes in the study of post-abortion reactions, this is the seventeenth study linking abortion to elevated rates of substance abuse.  It is the first study based on a nationally representative sample, however, to show higher rates of drug and alcohol use during subsequent pregnancies.

 

According to Reardon, who directs the Elliot Institute and is co-author of the new book, Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion, many women use drugs and alcohol to cope with unresolved emotional issues related to past abortions.  Since unaddressed trauma and feelings of loss, grief and guilt may become more intense during a subsequent pregnancy, women may be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

 

The researchers recommend that obstetricians should screen pregnant women for a prior history of abortion and substance abuse in order to make better recommendations for counseling.

 

"Counseling that addresses only the surface problems of the woman's substance abuse may fail to give her the help she needs to truly overcome this problem." Reardon said.

 

This is the fifth study documenting emotional problems linked to abortion to be published this year. The Elliot Institute has participated in all five. The other studies have linked abortion to higher rates of long term depression, increased need for mental health treatments, higher death rates (including death from suicide), and poor bonding with and parenting of later children.  The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology is one of the most respected and influential medical journals in the United States.

 

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Reference

 
Coleman PK, Reardon DC, Rue VM, Cougle JR. History of induced abortion in relation to substance use during pregnancies carried to term. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. December 2002; 187(5).

 

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