Investigating the effects of pregnancy termination in an animal model

Background: Approximately 20% of all pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. The health implications of abortion on women continues to be a source of heated debate. Various health concerns have been reported, short- and long-term. These include both physiological (e.g. increased risk of cancer) and psychological effects (e.g. increased risk of mood disorders (including depression), anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide) on women who have undergone an abortion. 

Given the seriousness of the potential mental health and physical consequences, and the difficulty of treating them if they occur, it is necessary to appropriately investigate these potential links to the abortion procedure. Unlike many other situations in medicine, there has not been any objective pre-clinical investigation of the potential serious physiological consequences of the termination of a viable pregnancy. Given the complex changes in the body associated with pregnancy, it is impossible to expect that terminating a viable pregnancy is without its consequences. 

Goal of our study: While there are clear differences between animals and humans, there are many similarities in the physiology, neurology, neurophysiology and the resulting behaviors (e.g. in stress). Animal models provide the scientist with a comparative approach to address various questions (e.g. depression, schizophrenia, etc.), at various levels (e.g. behavioral, neurophysiological, molecular, etc.), in a significantly more controlled environment, independently of potential social, moral and other influences. Thus, the goal of our study is to provide a pre-clinical investigation of the potential biological, physiological, neurological and behavioral consequences of induced abortion in an animal model (a laboratory rat).

Our model utilizes parameters, considered in neuropsychology to be indicators of the physiological and behavioral changes associated with depression-like behavior and stress, including rat body weight, food intake, vaginal impedance, sucrose consumption/preference, locomotor activity, home-cage activity, forced swim test, and oxidative balance measures.

Given the role of animal models in assisting in our understanding of the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying human brain function and behavior, it is proposed that our study should provide further insight into the potential consequences of abortion in humans.

Now Published

Biological, Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Drug-Induced Pregnancy Termination at First-Trimester Human Equivalent in an Animal Model

Matthew Bulfin Educational Conference Presentation (April 2019)