In the rocket-battered southern Israel town of Sderot, an abnormally large percentage of all births are girls. That according to a new study aimed at measuring the effect of stress on pregnancies.
The study compared statistics from both Sderot and the southern town of Kiryat Gat between 2001 and 2008. During this period, only Sderot was subjected to nearly daily rocket attacks from Gaza, while both towns are an equal distance from Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
Under the title “Prenatal Stress and Risk of Spontaneous Abortion,” the study found the boy-girl birth ration in Sderot between 2001–2008 to be 49.5 percent to 50.5 percent. Everywhere else in Israel, the numbers are opposite: 51 percent of all births are boys, while 49 percent are girls.
“Since 2001, Sderot has been constantly targeted by rockets from the Gaza Strip,” the researchers wrote, determining that the accompanying stress of these attacks resulted in increased miscarriages.
“Female fetuses are less susceptible to stress in general,” said Eyal Anteby, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Barzilai, suggesting that this could be the reason more natural births in Sderot are girls during such times.
But that doesn’t mean even the girls born in Sderot don’t enter the world under greater trauma.
The study found that 44 percent of the girls born in Sderot had a lower birth weight than those from Kiryat Gat. Additionally, the probability of premature birth in Sderot was twice as high as elsewhere in the country.