Rocket attacks in the southern Israeli city of Sderot have significantly increased the likelihood of miscarriages, says a new study published by the researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

According to the study, which was published in the latest issue of Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Bio-behavioral Medicine, exposure to rocket attacks increases the likelihood of a miscarriage, also known as a spontaneous abortion, due to stress-related factors such as dysregulation of cortisol, a stress hormone.

The study contrasted the pregnancies of 1,341 Sderot women who were exposed to frequent rocket attacks to those of 2,143 Kiryat Gat women, who live outside the range of the rockets.

The study found that “among women residing in the exposed town, the number of weekly alarms during the 6 months preconception 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,” upping the risk of miscarriages in Sderot by 59 percent, compared with 4.7 percent in Kiryat Gat.

“As the number of alarms intensified, the risk was elevated again possibly with increased cortisol level, or alternatively, with reduced cortisol level,” said Ph.D candidate Tamar Wainstock and Professor Ilana Shoham-Vardi, who both worked on the project. The two said the Sderot women exhibited symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), “which itself may increase the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes.”

In recent years, Sderot was one of the cities hardest hit by rocket attacks from Gaza, which have caused extensive damage to properties in the city and its environs.