The terrorist rocket bombings from Gaza on Sderot last year significantly
increased the risk of miscarriages among couples in the development town,
according to a new study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of
In an article by Dr. Tamar Wainstock, Dr. Liat
Lerner- Geva, Saralee Glasser, Dr. Ilana Shoham-Vardi and Dr. Eyal Anteby of
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, the
Gertner Institute at Tel Hashomer and Tel Aviv University, it was shown that
women exposed before conception and during pregnancy to the bombings were more
likely to lose their fetuses than women in other locations who were not exposed
to the attacks.
The team compared 1,341 pregnancies of women (exposed
group) who resided in Sderot with 2,143 pregnancies of women who lived in Kiryat
Gat (unexposed group), which was out of range of the missiles. Among women
residing in the exposed town, the number of weekly alarms during the six months
before conception was 2.2 (with a range of 0 to 15.3). During pregnancy, the
mean weekly alarm rate was 3.5 with a range of 0 to 31.
The study found
that exposure to rocket attacks increased the risk of spontaneous abortion by 59
percent, compared to women not experiencing this stress during or before
pregnancy (6% in Sderot, compared with 4.7% in Kiryat Gat).
been a constant target of rocket firing from the Gaza Strip since 2001, the
authors wrote. The rocket attacks are preceded by a warning alarm that informs
residents to seek shelter. These alarms are loud, sudden as well as stress
inducing because they are sounded only few seconds before the rocket hits the
town. Between April 2001 and December 2008, more than 1,000 alarms were sounded
in or near Sderot – 500 during 2008 alone. Rockets fell and exploded within the
town, killing residents and causing property damage.
The researchers also
found that among the residents of Sderot those with both the lowest and highest
level of exposure to rocket alarms during pregnancy had higher risk for
miscarriage than those with intermediate exposure.
that this finding might be explained by the release of cortisol, a known stress
hormone, the authors wrote.
“However, as the number of alarms
intensified, the risk was elevated again possibly with increased cortisol level,
or alternatively, with reduced cortisol level, as found in post-traumatic stress
disorders, which itself may increase the risk for adverse pregnancy
They noted that psychological stress has been associated with
decreased fertility in men, as expressed by low sperm quality in stressful
occupational settings and under stress associated with war. Decreased male
fertility has also been associated with early pregnancy loss. they continued.
Because in the new study population, both men and women were exposed, it is
possible that exposure by the fathers to stress combined with with the mothers’
stress before conception as well as during pregnancy.