- Apr. 8, 2013 —
Science Daily/American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Several studies have examined the impact of stress on a pregnancy -- both chronic stress, such as workload, and acute stress associated with traumatic events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They conclude that stress can lead to adverse birth outcomes, including miscarriage and premature birth.
Following the pregnancies of women from the Israeli town of Sderot, which is constantly under threat of rocket bombings from Gaza, and women from nearby Kiryat Gat, which is outside of Gaza's rocket range, the researchers demonstrated that those living under rocket fire were 59 percent more likely to miscarry than their neighbors.
Within the exposed group, the researchers also analyzed the intensity of exposure. Not every neighborhood in Sderot was subject to the same number of attacks, notes Prof. Lerner-Geva, and the researchers originally hypothesized that women in higher stress areas would have a higher probability of miscarriage. However, the results indicate that women in both high-intensity and low-intensity areas were at the same risk. One explanation is that the constant fear of attack is as stressful as the attacks themselves, she concludes.
Prevention through intervention
One advantage that healthcare providers have in dealing with populations under constant threat is that they can make use of early intervention, says Prof. Lerner-Geva. "Most of the Sderot pregnant women receive prenatal care through community health clinics. This presents an opportunity to run preventive interventions to reduce stress or even provide one-on-one counseling."