Operation Protective Edge Sees Increase in Premature Births

July 14, 2014

2 min read

The rate of births in Israel, including the rate of premature births, is up during the period since the start of Operation Protective Edge.  According to Israeli daily news site Walla!, Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center alone has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of women admitted in labor.

“Since the beginning of escalation in the south, we have birthed 317 babies,” Professor Eyal Sheiner, Deputy Director of Soroka’s maternity ward, stated Sunday.

“Much of this has to do with the mind-body connection,” he continued. “Following Operation Cast Lead in 2009, we published a study strongly suggesting a link between birth and stress, and it showed a significant increase in premature births [during the operation].”

“No one really knows what causes labor to start, but stress is something that can definitely lead to this,” he added.

The study in question showed that the rate of premature births during Cast Lead was significantly higher than during quieter times.  Some of this was due to anxiety and some due to circumstance which prevented the pregnant women from following their normal routines.

“The research clearly shows that chronic anxiety poses a risk for early delivery,” Shiner said.  However, it seems that surprisingly, the mothers’ emotional difficulties did not pose additional harm to their babies.


Another challenge faced by expectant mothers during these difficult times is safely reaching the hospital.

“Patients are reluctant to go to the hospital because every time you go out of your house, you are vulnerable to the missiles,” Dr. Eyal Anteby, the head of obstetrics and gynecology at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, southern Israel, told The WorldPost by phone. “We see less patients going to the emergency room. They come late when they are in more advanced stages of labor.

“In the past when the shelling was mostly in Sderot, pregnant women would many times come to Ashkelon, saying they lost the feeling of the baby. It was safer in Ashkelon,” Anteby said.

Besides preterm labor, exposure to rocket fire presents a 59 percent increase in risk of miscarriage, according to a study performed by Ben Gurion University last year.

And the phenomenon is not limited to the Israeli side.  Gaza residents are experiencing a similar increase in premature births.  Many women are afraid to leave the safe environs of the hospital with their newborn babies on both sides of the conflict.  Many hospitals are transferring their otherwise unprotected maternity wards and Neonatal Intensive Care Units to bomb shelters or more protected areas of the facility.

Still, naming trends show that Israeli mothers are very hopeful.  Operation Protective Edge is known in Hebrew as Mivtza Tzok Eitan, and there has been a rise in the popularity of the names “Tzok” and “Eitan”, according to hospital staff.

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