Young women who experience abortion or miscarriage are at higher risk for substance abuse or developing a mood disorder in later life, according to an Australian study.
In the study of 1223 women, researchers at Mater-University of Queensland found that found young women who had had a miscarriage before the age of 21 years were more than twice as likely to abuse illicit drugs (excluding cannabis) compared to those who had never been pregnant.
The researchers also found that having an abortion before 21 years of age doubled the risk of alcohol abuse or of developing depression; and more than tripled the risk of illicit drug use.
The study took into account existing risk factors such as substance abuse, mental health disorders, child sexual abuse, teenage alcohol and illicit drug use and mental health problems.
The researchers suggest, "alcohol and illicit drugs [may be] used to decrease emotional responses to the loss".
Lead author, Kaeleen Dingle, from the University of Queensland, said that it is important that counsellors seeing young women after an abortion or miscarriage should be aware that they could be at risk for mental health disorders.
"Even in this very young age group some women have very complex pregnancy histories, some are not just having one live birth - some are having live births plus abortions plus miscarriages at very early ages," ABS Science quoted Dingle, as saying.
"People who are counselling women post-abortion or post-miscarriage need to talk to women about their mental health. They may need to take a drugs history and talk to women about that," Dingle added.
Dingle said that the evidence for mental health risks is not an argument for preventing abortion.
"This is not a 'pro-life' versus 'pro-choice' issue. What this says is, after an abortion, some young women struggle with the loss or the reasons behind the decision [to abort] and need extra support," she said.
"Some, but not all, young women experiencing an abortion or miscarriage may turn to illicit substances to help deal with that grief and loss. People who are counselling young women need to be aware of that," she added.
The study appears in the British Journal of Psychiatry.