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Sleep Disorders May Be a Symptom of Trauma
May kicks off a month-long educational event known as Better Sleep Month. Millions of Americans reportedly have trouble sleeping due to stress, lack of time or various sleep disorders. But for many for many women, a sleep disorder may be the result of something deeper: trauma as a result of abortion, including coerced and unwanted abortions.
A 2006 study published in Sleep, the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, found that women who experienced abortion were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders or disturbances compared to women who gave birth.1
The researchers examined medical records for 56,284 low-income women in California who gave birth or underwent an abortion in the first six months of 1989. They excluded women who had been treated for sleep disturbances or disorders in the 12 to 18 months prior to abortion or delivery.
The data showed that, up to four years later, women who underwent abortions were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders afterwards compared to those who gave birth. The difference was greatest during the first 180 days after the end of the pregnancy, when aborting women were approximately twice as likely to seek treatment for sleep disorders. Significant differences between aborting and child-bearing women persisted for three years.
Sleep Disorders Linked to Trauma
More research is needed to to see if women who have abortions are more likely to experience specific symptoms of sleep disturbance and whether those symptoms could be markers for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems.
Numerous studies have shown that trauma victims will often experience sleep difficulties. The authors believe their findings support a growing understanding that some women may have traumatic reactions to abortion. In a 2004 study of American and Russian women who had abortions:
In the book Forbidden Grief, author and therapist Dr. Theresa Burke notes that nightmares and insomnia a commonly reported among women after abortion. She writes: "When the conscious mind sleeps, the defense mechanisms in charge of repelling unwanted thoughts are relaxed. This is why intrusive thoughts related to a suppressed trauma often arise in the form of dreams or nightmares."3
Other studies have found that women with a history of abortion are subsequently at increased risk for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, psychiatric hospitalization, and other problems.
This research points to a need for health care providers to regularly inquire about prior pregnancy loss, as identification of unresolved grief and trauma issues may improve treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems after abortion.
More research is also available at www.AbortionRisks.org. Find studies, contribute information on new studies, and read articles and commentary on important issues.
1. DC Reardon and PK Coleman, “Relative Treatment Rates for Sleep Disorders and Sleep Disturbances Following Abortion and Childbirth: A Prospective Record Based-Study,” Sleep 29(1):105-106, 2006.
2. VM Rue et. al., “Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women,” Medical Science Monitor 10:SR5-16, 2004.
3. T. Burke with D. Reardon, Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2007).
May is also Mental Health Month, a good time to draw attention to the risks to mental health that can be caused by abortion, including coerced and unwanted abortions.
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that women who have abortions are at higher risk for various mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, mood disorders—such as depression and bipolar disorder—and substance abuse. Overall, the risk for mental health disorders was 17 percent higher among women who had abortions, and researchers found that abortion made a "significant contribution" in 12 out of the 15 disorders studied. Abortion was also more likely to cause mental health problems than was a history of other traumas such as rape, childhood abuse or physical violence.
While many abortion advocates claim that abortion is better for women than unplanned pregnancy, studies comparing women who abort unplanned pregnancies to women who carry unplanned pregnancies to term (with no history of abortion) reveal that aborting women have more subsequent depression, anxiety and substance abuse, and that teens who abort an unintended pregnancy are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes than teens who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term.
Further, a New Zealand research team led by a pro-choice professor wrote in a recent paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry:
"In general, there is no evidence in the literature on abortion and mental health that suggests that abortion reduces the mental health risks of unwanted or mistimed pregnancy. ... [T]here is nothing in this study that would suggest that termination of pregnancy was associated with lower risks of mental health problems than birth following an unwanted pregnancy."
Indeed, their research found that, after controlling for other variables that could influence mental health, abortion was linked to a variety of mental health disorders, including alcohol and drug addiction, suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders and major depression. In contrast, giving birth or having a miscarriage were not "consistently related" to an increase in mental health problems.
Studies have also linked abortion to other problems such as substance abuse, suicide, and higher rates of psychiatric care. Further, many women abort because of pressure, coercion, disinformation and even force from others. In one survey, 64 percent of women who had abortions reported being pressured by others, while 84 percent said they did not receive enough counseling to make a decision.
Men Suffer After Abortion, Too
Men can be negatively impacted by abortion as well. A new study that is one of the first to examine the impact of abortion on men's relationships found that abortion was linked to higher rates of subsequent domestic violence for both men and women, and that men who had been involved in an abortion were more likely to report problems with their partner over jealousy, children and drug use. Experts who work with men after abortion have also described deep, often hidden feelings of pain, grief, and loss following abortion, and note that men are often given no say in an abortion decision.
Women and men being screened and treated for mental health disorders could be helped if mental health professionals ask about a history of abortion and other pregnancy loss, and help provide resources to help them work through unresolved issues related to the abortion.
Learn More/Take Action: For more information on these and other studies, download and share our Recent Research fact sheet.
A member of the U.S. Air Force has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for attempting to kill his unborn child after he secretly gave his wife a drug that caused her to miscarry following her refusal to have an abortion.
Airman Scott Boie, who was stationed in Alaska, was court-martialed under a federal law that allows prosecutors to bring charges on behalf of an unborn child who is killed or injured during an attack on the mother. Boie’s wife told jurors that she suffered a miscarriage after refusing to have an abortion and that she later learned from a friend of her husband’s that her husband had caused the miscarriage by giving her Misopristol—an ulcer drug used to cause abortions as part of the RU-486 regimen—in a drink.
Boie’s wife secretly taped him confessing to the act and the friend also testified that he helped Boie obtain the drug. A jury acquitted him of killing the unborn child but convicted him of attempting to do so.
The pro-life group Live Action has released two more tapes of Planned Parenthood employees—in Kansas and Tennessee—allegedly covering up cases of criminal sexual activity and putting teen girls at risk for further abuse.
LiveAction has been conducting undercover investigations in which staff members go to abortion businesses posing as pregnant minor girls with adult “boyfriends.” In the one of the tapes, a Planned Parenthood staff member in Memphis appears telling a supposed 14-year-old girl to lie to a judge so she can obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge and the 31-year-old who impregnated her will not get into trouble. The staff member tells the girl not to mention the man’s age and adds, “Just say you have a boyfriend 17 years old, whatever.”
Laws in most states require health care professionals to report suspected cases of statutory rape and sexual abuse to law enforcement officials. In 2002, a judge found an Arizona Planned Parenthood negligent for failing to report a case in which a 13-year-old girl underwent two abortions after being sexually abused by her 23-year-old foster brother. And the pro-life group Life Dynamics has also released recordings of abortion clinic staffers instructing undercover investigators to hide evidence of sexual abuse and to lie in court in order to obtain an abortion without having their parents find out that an adult was having sex with them.
Sunday, June 21 is Father's Day. Sadly, on that day there will be many men mourning a child lost to abortion, including men who were not given any say in the abortion or learned about it only after it had taken place. Men too can suffer as a result of coerced or unwanted abortion that took place against their will or desire.
The men's page at www.theunchoice.com/men.htm includes links to articles, information, support and resources for men struggling after abortion. You can also download our Father's Day ad/flyer that can be posted on bulletin boards, printed in publications, stuffed into bulletins and newsletters or used in other ways to raise awareness of and acknowledge the pain and loss many men suffer after abortion.
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