Adverse effects of abortion and contraceptive methods on women's health

I would like to understand the adverse impacts of abortion and artificial contraception on women’s health. Where is there evidence?

Here is where I personally have found evidence that seems relatively robust.

  1. Preterm birth linked with evacuation of the uterus for abortion or miscarriage. There is a systematic review and meta-analysis on this topic, with the reference here:

  2. Hormonal contraceptives increase risk of cerebral venous thrombosis. Systematic review and meta-analysis published here:

  3. Combined hormonal contraceptives increase risk of venous thromboembolism. Systematic review published here:
    Another here:
    Another literature summary here:

  4. Progestin-only contraceptives (injection and oral) for venous thromboembolism (moderate evidence). Systematic review cited here:

  5. Combined oral contraceptives and the risk of myocardial infarction (when estrogen dose is at least 50 ug):

  6. Combined oral contraceptives impair cognitive and emotional function in the female brain
    2014 systematic review:
    2010 systematic review:
    Some evidence of brain changes:

  7. Though not directly affecting women’s health, oral (and possibly injected) contraceptives are associated with hormones in surface waters. Here’s one novel study that found that water discharges from a wastewater treatment plant increased at the beginning of the semester of a nearby university:

There may be more. I welcome input!

Yet even more reasons to avoid those mortal sins, yes?

There’s also the link between abortion and cancer:

While I haven’t actually seen the movie yet, there is a film called Hush which I will be screening with my college’s Respect for Life Club this coming September. It follows the medical issues associated with abortion…things that the medical industry has tried to hide over the years.

May God bless you all! :slight_smile:

Here is a link to a report discussing the increased risk of prostrate cancer (and noting increased risk for cervical cancer) in relation to being sexually active with multiple partners.

I like this thread. :thumbsup:

  1. Sticking to my own field, there are many reports of oral contraceptives worsening or triggering depression. This is complicated by the fact that other papers suggest a neutral or even a positive effect, but my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience in the clinic suggests that negative mood changes are quite common:

  1. On abortion, I actually researched the topic as it relates to mental health in 2014, as our national government was soliciting comments from “interested stakeholders” on the topic. Here’s what I wrote, though it never really seems to have made an impact (:() (my name and the name of my workplace are dummied out. :))

Dear Sir,

As an interested stakeholder who has carefully studied the scientific
literature on the mental health impact of abortion on women, I am
writing to you as per the notification issued by by Shri D. N. Sahoo,
Undersecretary to the Government of India, posted to the Ministry of
Health and Family Welfare website on 29-10-2014

Though the proposed amendments to the MTP Act can be criticized on
various grounds - religious/moral, ethical, professional and
socio-cultural - I will limit myself to presenting evidence from
recent, large-scale studies on the adverse psychological consequences
of induced abortion.

The historical background to these studies must be borne in mind.
Following the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, most Western countries
passed laws permitting the liberalization of induced abortion,
sometimes referred to by the euphemism “Medical Termination of
Pregnancy”. The most well-known of these judgments was the United
States Supreme Court verdict in the case of Roe vs. Wade, 1973, which
permitted abortion on demand up to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

In keeping with the spirit of the times, most authors (for example
Stotland, 1992) claimed that such policies would have no ill-effect on
women’s mental health, and might even bring about positive changes in
the case of an “unwanted” pregnancy. Though this remains the official
position of professional bodies, recent evidence contradicts this:

  1. When compared to women who had a spontaneous abortion
    (miscarriage), Norwegian women who underwent an induced abortion
    experienced higher levels of guilt and shame, and had high levels of
    anxiety as rated by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).
    In contrast, women who suffered a miscarriage had more acute grief,
    but were much healthier in the long term. (Broen et al., 2005)

  2. In a sample of over 3,000 women from the United States, having an
    induced abortion was associated with higher rates of mood disorders
    (odds ratio 1.75-1.9), anxiety disorders (odds ratio 1.9), alcohol and
    drug abuse (odds ratio 3-5) and, more disturbingly, suicide (odds
    ratio 2). About 6% of the suicidal ideation experienced by these women
    could be attributed to induced abortion. (Mota et al., 2010)

  3. A 30-year follow-up study of women from New Zealand found that
    induced abortion was associated with a 30% increase in risk of
    developing mental disorders, and that exposure to induced abortion
    might account for up to 5% of mental disorders in this population.
    (Fergusson et al., 2008)

  4. A study of 48 South African women who underwent an abortion found
    that around 50% of them had emotional or psychological problems at
    follow-up (6 months later), and 16 of these women (33%) developed a
    “post-abortion syndrome” similar to the post-traumatic stress disorder
    experienced by war veterans and disaster survivors. (Van Rooyen and
    Smith, 2004)

  5. A synthesis of all published studies for the period 1995-2009,
    covering 22 studies and over 8 lakh*women (1.6 lakh of whom had
    undergone an abortion) found that induced abortion increased the risk
    of mental disorders by 81%, and that 10% of all mental disorders in
    this population could be attributed to induced abortion.

Though such studies have not been conducted in the Indian setting,
these results are disturbing and should give us cause for concern.
They suggest that, far from being a harmless and safe procedure (as
advocated by Western NGOs and law-makers), “medical termination of
pregnancy” is associated with a high risk of mental illness and
suicide in women.

It is my recommendation, as a mental health professional, that such
research be taken into account, and that research on the mental health
impact of abortions in Indian women be undertaken before any attempts
are made to liberalize or broaden the scope of this psychologically
traumatic procedure. We must be careful not to make mistakes that the
“developed world” is waking up to only now, and we must avoid enacting
laws that could have counterproductive effects on the health of Indian
women, who already face multiple hardships.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

(The views expressed in this summary are my own and are not the
official position of the *******. They are, however, based on an appraisal of
recent, methodologically sound scientific studies and not on any
personal prejudice.)

  • 1 lakh = 1,00,000, it’s a local term. :wink:

This may seem far reaching, but I do believe abortion and contraceptive acceptance has brought about even deeper issues for women than effecting just their physical health. Even for woman who don’t use contraceptives or have abortions it has effected them in a major way.

Its effected society as a whole and not for the better, though some people would not agree.

Seems believable to me.
Several people my family has known who have gotten breast cancer were on contraceptives, and there doesn’t really seem to be anything else they did to spur it (frequent radiation, bad eating, etc.).

Funny how there is so little mainstream media coverage on the negative effects of birth control. Yet more proof that promiscuity and refusal to let the unborn live are simply not meant to be. :nope:

Please be careful about implying that people who have/had cancer have somehow done something to cause it or “spur” it on, there are many reasons why someone may develop cancer that you are not privy to & speculating / making unfounded assumptions can be extremely hurtful, most of the time no one knows the exact cause. Yes hormonal contraceptives can increase the chance of getting breast cancer but so does:

  • genetics
  • starting menstruation at an early age
  • experiencing menopause at a late age
  • having your first child over 35
  • not having children at all

Breast cancer has historically been referred to as “nuns disease” as there is an higher occurrence of breast cancer in nuns compared to the general population, this is also true of ovarian & uterine cancers. This is because nuns have more menstrual cycles (& the hormonal changes that accompany it) compared to women who have children & breastfeed. In fact it’s been discussed that nuns should be offered the pill to help reduce their higher risk of ovarian & uterine cancer.

I’m on the pill due to a medical condition & I’m fully aware of the side effects & risks associated with it but for me personally, I’ve decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. All prescription medications have side effects & risks, many of them are much worse than those associated with hormonal contraception but we don’t try to talk people out of taking them because we trust that they’re making an informed decision with their doctor, I honestly don’t think hormonal contraception is any different.

Catholics object to artificial contraception on moral & religious grounds, not because they have side effects or increase the chances of cancer. Unfortunately if someone does not have the same moral or religious stance as we do, then they’re going to view it just like they do any other medication & in most cases will decide the benefits outweigh the risks

Actually, it’s not because nuns have more periods that raises their chances of getting cancer. During pregnancy, a woman’s breast tissue changes to accommodate nursing- that change in tissue helps prevent breast cancer. This is why there’s such a link between abortion and breast cancer. The woman’s breasts are starting to change, but the abortion usually halts that process in the beginning stages, leaving her even more susceptible for breast cancer.

Also, it’s the first pregnancy that sets the odds; if a woman goes full term in first pregnancy, her breasts have fully changed and she is protected. Subsequent abortions or miscarriages don’t change that. However, most women abort their first pregnancy, raising the risk of breast cancer.

You are certainly correct that we cannot assume that every woman with cancer has had an abortion. That is disingenuous.

I totally agree. I’ve got a background in epidemiology, so I often notice people who seek to attribute a cause to a surprise illness. Unfortunately, cancer is a somewhat random occurrence that result from our cells’ acquiring mutations over the course of our lives. There are known risk factors, which can be either biological (e.g., the BRCA1 gene polymorphism, which interferes with the cellular-repair mechanisms within the body) or “environmental” (e.g., smoking). Epidemiology can help to figure out risk factors that influence risk in particular populations (e.g., reduced breast cancer risks in women who have their first full pregnancy before age 30), but not in particular individuals.

Yes hormonal contraceptives can increase the chance of getting breast cancer but so does:

  • genetics
  • starting menstruation at an early age
  • experiencing menopause at a late age
  • having your first child over 35
  • not having children at all

The first three factors and the last two factors you mention differ substantially. The first three are largely involuntary risk factors, while the latter two have more of a voluntary component (though there are plenty of people who want to have children and can’t, as a result of either biological limitations or the lack of a mate).

The pill is somewhat different, in that the majority of its users are doing so voluntarily, with the purpose of avoiding pregnancy while remaining sexually active. The pill has been linked with later childbearing, along with increased participation by women in higher education and the workforce.

I’m on the pill due to a medical condition & I’m fully aware of the side effects & risks associated with it but for me personally, I’ve decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. All prescription medications have side effects & risks, many of them are much worse than those associated with hormonal contraception but we don’t try to talk people out of taking them because we trust that they’re making an informed decision with their doctor, I honestly don’t think hormonal contraception is any different.

One of the reasons I’m raising the question about adverse effects on women is because of that risk-benefit tradeoff. A legitimate question is the extent to which women have had access to information about the adverse impacts that the use of contraception (and abortion). From a broader societal perspective, we might also raise the question of “externalities” of contraceptive use, such as economic inequality, changes in family structure, and risks from environmental exposures to hormones in surface and drinking water.

Catholics object to artificial contraception on moral & religious grounds, not because they have side effects or increase the chances of cancer. Unfortunately if someone does not have the same moral or religious stance as we do, then they’re going to view it just like they do any other medication & in most cases will decide the benefits outweigh the risks

I personally think that there’s something deeper than just a calculation of risks and benefits. For example, the increased risk of breast cancer (and possibly cardiovascular disease) associated with having no children, or having children late in life, speaks to a certain extent about what it means to be a human being at a fundamental level – we have not yet reached the point of writing childbearing out of our DNA. Our post-modern society, which has embraced tattoos and piercings as forms of socially-acceptable self-expression, has also embraced industrial-scale manufacturing of synthetic hormones (e.g,. pill, DepoProvera, IUD), plastic (in condoms and IUDs), and copper (in Paragard-T) as fundamental components of human sexuality. To me, these are basic questions about what it means to be human. That’s more than just morality, it’s about our basic understanding of ourselves as the beneficiaries of a loving creator God.

I will register my own skepticism about the abortion-breast cancer link. If you look at that table, there is a presentation of risk estimates in a manner that appears to be selective. Why, for example, are some risk estimates presented for only women over 50 and under 40 in the same study? I have to look on that table with a degree of skepticism.

There is a recent meta-analysis of prospective studies (e.g., those that follow people over long periods of time), and it found no evidence of increased risk, despite “case control” studies (e.g., those retrospectively comparing the life histories of current women with and without breast cancer) having found increased risk. Here is a link to that report:

The lack of increased risk in the prospective studies doesn’t rule out a role for abortion in breast cancer, particularly if abortion is used to postpone a full pregnancy until later in life. On a society-wide basis, that could contribute to elevated rates of breast cancer (against the backdrop of rates that are falling due to other causes, such as declining trends in tobacco use).

just getting back from vacation, and fear this thread may be dead- but i wanted to offer my 2 cents.

having read most of these posts, there is mixed some truth, and a lot of misinformation. i will comment on what i recall that really stood out.

Oral contraceptives- it is true that when on the pill, there is an increased risk of blood clot (DVT, etc) the first year that you are on it. the risk is small, but still there. for some, this risk is too high, an OCP are not advised. EX: smoking and age >35, h/o certain cancers, h/o blood clots. breast cancer associated with OCP has been studied extensively. there are no definitive studies that show that OCP either increase or decrease your risk of breast cancer. the american cancer society states that OCP may slightly increase your risk, but stopping the pill eliminates that risk. The american college of OB/GYN states the data does not support an increased risk. but remember that there is a baseline risk of getting breast cancer anyway. in the US, it is approx 1 out of 8 women.

There is- for a very few women- an increased risk of depression on OCP. OCP cause an increase in the production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds testosterone, which can cause mood change/depression, decrease in enjoyment of sex.

so what are the positives of OCP?

OCP (estrogen and progesterone containing) help control abnormal uterine bleeding, painful periods, pain and potentially spread of endometriosis, treat precancerous cells in the lining of the uterus (not the cervix), reduce/eliminate acne, prevent spread of hirsutism, reduce the risk of both ovarian and uterine cancer.

many comments on nuns and cancer- they are at increased risk vs general population for both breast and ovarian cancer. the ovarian cancer risk is due to uninterupted ovulation. the more you ovulate, the greater the risk. regarding breast cancer, this is due to more exposure/prolonged exposure to estogens. having kids interrupts ovulation and prolonged estrogen exposure therefore reducing the risk.

OCP arent bad things. used correctly, they are a helpful tool for your physician to prescribe. there are potential risks with anything you do.

there is a risk with driving your car into town to get groceries. you could fall asleep, hit a tree, crash your car into another car. most people acknowledge these risks, and chose to drive rather than walk on the road to the store, then walk back home with a bunch of food.

there are risks/benefits with most things. i read on these boards like OCP’s are the devil’s candy. maybe the problem is that they are named poorly. contraception and catholic doesnt go together very well.

im not trying to belittle anyone that commented on this thread, i didnt read all of them— but speak to a medical professional----- physician-----ob/gyn before writing off a potentially usefull medication.

regarding abortion- many studies done, and there is no evidence that induced abortion increases risk of breast cancer.

:thumbsup:. Coming from a family with 3 physicians, 2 of them female, I have always wondered why more medical professionals don’t speak up concerning the anti artificial contraception threads. Both of the female physicians in my family use birth control, one uses the pill, the other has an IUD. As with the anti vax crowd, do they care or understand that literally 99.9% of pediatric docs vaccinate their own kids? Must likely they think that they know more than doctors because they read dubious info found on low information websites. :shrug:

Both the pill and the IUD have abortifacient qualities as noted in the two links immediately following:

Interestingy, the definition of pregnancy has been changed so that physicians may argue that this is not the case. From the first article:

"But one big loophole has allowed groups like the FDA and drug manufacturers to market hormonal birth control as only a contraceptive, and not an abortifacient: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed the definition of conception and pregnancy from fertilization to implantation. This means that ACOG (the go-to American source for obstetricians) used to define “conception,” aka the beginning of “pregnancy” as occurring at the moment when sperm and egg join to create a new human being.

But now, ACOG defines the beginning of pregnancy as occurring when the embryo – which has likely been in existence for over a week – implants into the mother’s uterus. And this definitional change was done precisely when the medical community faced the ethical dilemma of the Pill: doctors knew that the Pill was an abortifacient, not simply a contraceptive. But words have meaning, and the medical community knew that, and twisted the words used to define pregnancy for their own ends. Abort73 explains:

Why this change? The timing of their decision makes it almost certain that it was politically rather than scientifically motivated. The FDA had recently approved the sale of hormonal birth control pills, but “the pill” didn’t fit the traditional definition of “contraceptive.” Why? Because it doesn’t just prevent conception; it also inhibits implantation—or at least purports to. If breakthrough ovulation and fertilization occurs (which is the biological beginning of individual, human life), the embryo may find it difficult to implant because of changes the pill makes to the endometrium. This created an ethical problem for doctors who wanted to assure their patients that the pill is a contraceptive and not an abortifacient. How did they deal with the dilemma? They changed the definition of “conception.” By saying “conception,” but meaning “implantation,” it became possible to market hormonal birth control pills as contraceptives—as something that prevents “conception.”

In regard to medical studies of abortion, birth control and cancer please see:

The Author, Dr. Chris Kahlenborn has done an excellent job presenting studies in a way accessible to non-medical scholars, while also providing the information that will enable medical professionals to double check the research.
You might also visit Dr. Kahlenborn’s research institute, the Polycarp Research Institute at :

and the links at:

How go your family physicians view the threat to life that the Pill represents for the newly conceived? Or does life begin at implantation? :shrug:

I am against it for many reasons. One being that the progestin contained causes the third acting mechanism (when preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus fail) that makes the uterine wall inhospitable to a newly formed embryo, preventing it from attaching and causing miscarriage. I would not touch it because of that. I don’t think many people know that is a problem with IUDs and BC medications containing progestin.


You all make it all so dependent on the woman. let the men use condoms if they want birth control …or just abstain…

And what mention of the health risks to women of multiple pregnancies?

It is all so easy.

Or just abstain. That’s what natural family planning is: abstaining during fertile times.

It’s not just dependent on the woman. It is actually quite beautiful how it works in a marriage. It’s a sacrifice for both.

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