SPRINGFIELD, IL, January 25, 2006 ( – A new study published in Sleep, the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, has found that women who experienced abortion were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders or disturbances compared to women who gave birth.

The researchers, David Reardon of the Springfield, Ill.-based Elliot Institute and Priscilla Coleman of the University of Bowling Green, 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. Researchers examined data for medical treatment for these women from July 1988 to June 1994 and excluded women who had been treated for sleep disturbances or disorders in the 12 to 18 months prior to abortion or delivery.

The findings showed that, up to four years following abortion or delivery, women who underwent abortions were more likely to be treated for sleep disorders following an induced abortion compared to a 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.

Numerous studies have shown that trauma victims will often experience sleep difficulties. The authors believe their findings support a growing consensus that some women may have traumatic reactions to abortion.

A recent study published in the Medical Science Monitor in 2004, found that 65% percent of American women studied experienced multiple symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which they attributed to their abortions, and over 14 percent reported all the symptoms necessary for a clinical diagnosis of abortion induced PTSD. That study also found that 23% of the women reported sleeping difficulties they attributed to their abortions and 30% reported nightmares.

According to Reardon, a co-author of both studies, the prior study was limited by its reliance on women’s self reported symptoms. “This new record- based study examines actual treatment rates for sleep disorders which have been confirmed by the treating physicians and it also has the advantage of employing an appropriate control group.”

Reardon pointed out that the new study was limited by the fact that the authors did not have access to data on sleep disorders among women who had not been pregnant. He said more research is needed to see if women who have abortions are more likely to experience specific symptoms of sleep disturbance and whether those symptoms may be markers for PTSD and other psychiatric reactions.

Other recent studies have found that women with a history of abortion are subsequently at increased risk for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, poor bonding with and parenting of later children, and psychiatric hospitalization.

Reardon and Coleman encourage mental health care providers to regularly inquire about prior pregnancy loss. Doing so, Reardon says, will “give women permission” to discus unresolved grief issues and may thereby improve treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety, and other psychiatric problems linked to abortion.

See the referenced studies online:
  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.
  VM Rue et. al., Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women, Medical Science Monitor 10:SR5-16, 2004.