Ominous and lingering sirens, raining rocket fusillades, explosions outside the window — life in southern Israeli cities near the Gaza Strip has undergone a turbulent decade that may be having an impact on the way children are born. Or not born.
A research team in the Health Sciences Faculty at the Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba has revealed a significant correlation between preconception and pregnancy stress in Sderot and spontaneous abortion (SA), also known as miscarriage, and is calling on the government to draft policy that will help to reduce the effects of stress on reproductive health.
Sderot is a city that has long suffered Gazan terrorists' rocket attacks, so research compared the miscarriage rates of residents of Sderot and Kiryat Gat, the latter city not being strongly affected by rocket attacks until Operation Cast Lead broke out in Dec., 2008.
Both cities are located at a similar distance from Barzilai Medical Center, where researchers looked at data from April 2004 to Dec. 27, 2008, the day that Operation Cast Lead began and Kiryat Gat too fell under the radar of the Gazan terrorists' scope.
Tamar Wainstock and Professor Ilana Shoham-Vardi from the epidemiology department in the health sciences faculty at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev completed the study, which included records of 3,488 pregnancies of 2,937 women, 1,132 from Sderot and 1,805 from Kiryat Gat.
Of the 1,132 Sderot cases, only seven of the women had never heard a rocket-warning siren before.
"The findings demonstrate a significantly increased risk of SA among women exposed to potentially life-threatening situations for a prolonged period, both before and during pregnancy," an article written about the study and published in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal said.
Researchers theorized that the increased production cortisol, a steroid hormone that is produced in response to stress, could increase the risk of miscarriage.
That the collected data was location-based and did not survey the women's individual responses to stress, as well as their varying degrees of exposure, may have limited the findings, researchers said.