Abortion

The Abortion Act 1967, with its subsequent amendments, permits abortion before 24 weeks' gestation in the case of risk to the mother's life, the mother's physical health or mental health, or the health of her existing children; later abortion is permitted in the case of foetal abnormality. Most abortions are carried out on the grounds of risk to the mother's mental health, but usually without a psychiatric opinion.

Postpartum psychosis after a previous delivery is usually regarded as a justification for abortion if the woman wants one, but since the risk of recurrence of postpartum psychosis after a single previous episode is only 20 per cent, abortion should not necessarily be advised in such cases.

Abortion seldom has serious psychiatric sequelae, but about 25 per cent of women experience significant guilt or depression afterward, especially if they were ambivalent about the abortion or pressured to accept it.

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