Belinson hospital yard in Israel. Photo: wiki commons.
Hospitals in Israel are reporting a significant increase in early childbirth rates recently, and in particular, the rates of premature births.
Army Radio reported that Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot stated a 28% increase in premature births since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, against Hamas in Gaza, in comparison with last July, and July of 2012. Dr Roni Levy, the head of the labor ward at Kaplan, said that while it’s impossible to prove if the conflict has a direct effect on early labors, it is very likely to have a significant impact.
“We still don’t understand exactly what makes a woman go into labor, but we know that physical wellbeing is always linked to emotional wellbeing,” said Dr Levy. “And there have been several indicators, for instance, increases in levels of cortisone of pregnant women. Cortisone is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and it’s interesting to note that higher levels were even found in the umbilical cords after birth.”
Meanwhile Soroka Medical Center in Herzilya reported an increase of 20% and Asaf Harofeh reported that the rate of twins born early showed an 82% increase. Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon reported that there were 5 sets of twins born since the beginning of the operation in Gaza, all of which were born prematurely.
Dennis Kravitz from Beer Sheva, whose wife Oktzana gave birth to twins in week 33 of her pregnancy, said, “Of course the stress might affect. When you’re woken up in the middle of the night by a siren and you have to fumble your way to the bomb shelter, that can take a toll.”
All births that occur before week 37 are categorized as premature while those that occur between week 32 and week 34 pose a mortal danger to the health of the baby. There is a medical dispute with regards to the levels of influence that stress has on triggering premature births, however, in Israel there have been numerous studies in the past that indicate that the rate of early births rises in periods of “national crisis”.
Professor Eyal Schneier, the deputy director of Soroka Medical Center, said that during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 the level of premature births — including many that were dangerously premature — was double that of the same month from the two years preceding Cast Lead and two years after. Professor Schneier added that he’s heard many stories since the beginning of this operation where stress seemed to be a trigger. For example, there were cases where a siren was immediately followed by a pregnant woman’s water breaking, or cases of women who started feeling contractions the minute they arrived in bomb shelters.
Source: The Algemeiner