WOMEN who have an abortion can suffer mental distress, anxiety, guilt and shame five years later, and perhaps longer, researchers have found.
A study in Norway compared a group of 40 women who suffered a miscarriage with 80 who chose to have an abortion, questioning them ten days, six months, two years and five years after the event.
The team found that women who had a miscarriage suffered more mental distress up to six months after losing their babies compared with those who had an abortion. But women who had an abortion experienced more mental distress long afterwards compared with the miscarriage group.
The Oslo University researchers said both sets of women should be given information about the psychological effects of losing a baby.
Pro-life campaigners said the research confirmed the emotional consequences of having an abortion could be massive.
Women's health experts highlighted the importance of proper counselling to deal with women having abortions.
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, used tests to measure the extent of intrusive thoughts, feelings and flashbacks about the end of pregnancy. Researchers also assessed how much women avoided thinking, talking or feeling anything about the event.
Richard Warren, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy were frequently profound.
The Norwegian study showed that the decision to terminate "may bring with it long-standing feelings of anxiety and guilt", Mr Warren added.