Mental Health Concerns

Special challenges may exist for pregnant individuals who suffer from mental illness and these challenges may be additional factors in their choice about whether to continue a pregnancy or seek abortion. Experiencing mental illness may actually be linked to increased risk of unintended pregnancy; one recent study found that symptoms of depression and stress influenced contraceptive behavior and increased unintended pregnancy risk.

In addition, pregnancy and delivery can sometimes exacerbate existing mental illnesses; for example, pregnancy and delivery often increase the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Many people taking psychotropic medications, especially lithium, at conception may worry about potential birth defects. Pregnant persons taking medications that can affect a pregnancy may be facing a decision over whether to stop their treatment or choose abortion. 

At the same time, research has shown that abortion itself is not a significant predictor of subsequent anxiety, mood, impulse-control, and eating disorders or suicidal ideation. Rather, prepregnancy mental health is a strong predictor of postpregnancy mental health. Individuals seeking abortion may be at higher risk of prior untreated mental health disorders and providers can assist these persons with appropriate screening and referrals. 

Of note, minors aged 12 and over may consent to confidential counseling or psychotherapy on an outpatient basis. Providers of such treatment may not notify parents of the minor's treatment services without the minor's consent unless the provider believes such notification is necessary; however, in such a case, the minor must be informed of the provider's intention to disclose. If the minor is under 17, counseling or psychotherapy sessions are limited to five in number until parental consent is obtained. 405 ILCS 5/3-501(a) In addition, parents can obtain psychological records if the provider does not find compelling reasons for denying access. (740 ILCS 110/4(a)(3)).