Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 54 Issue 3 (September 1981), Pages 203-297

The effects of termination of pregnancy: A follow‐up study of psychiatric referrals (pages 267-276)

A series of 57 women presenting in the first years of the implementation of the Abortion Act for a psychiatric opinion on termination of pregnancy (TP) were carefully examined. The average scores on psychometric tests were well into the pathological range. Of the 35 recommended for TP 24 were single, 20 had been separated from one or both parents and 16 had a psychiatric history.

On those women available for follow‐up the mean psychometric scores improved early (1–17 months after consultation) and eventually fell to the normal range (3–6 years after consultation).

A particular feature of the study was an in‐depth follow‐up of a subsample of 10 women. This was especially illuminating on the meaning that the pregnancy had for the patient. Ambivalent feelings towards the pregnancy were recalled. Some had used the pregnancy to hold on to the father. Many were still acting out problems with the family of origin. Their relationships with the medical profession were often unsatisfactory.

The study increases our (still patchy) understanding of this population and confirms the need for counselling at the time that the woman first presents, both to avoid adverse psychiatric sequelae and to use the abortion as a critical experience to improve overall adjustment.

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