WASHINGTON: Pregnant women exposed to armed conflict have greater chances of giving birth to underweight babies.
"Our results provide another reason why pregnant women deserve special attention when armed conflict breaks out," says Hani Mansour, assistant professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver, who conducted the study with Daniel Rees, professor at Colorado.
The research focused on a major uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories. The Second Intifada, which began in September 2000, had claimed the lives of more than 4,000 Palestinians by 2005, the Journal of Development Economics reports.
Mansour and Rees drew on data from the Palestinian Demographic and Health Survey, which was collected by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics approximately four years after the start of the uprising, according to a Colorado statement.
They examined a sample of 1,224 births to women living in the West Bank. Conflict exposure in utero was measured by the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the district where the mother lived.
"Psychological stress is a plausible explanation for this relationship, although we cannot rule out malnutrition," Mansour said.
Besides, researchers noted previous studies showing exposure to earthquakes and terrorist attacks in the early stages of pregnancy can lead to low birth weight.
Rees and Mansour said they had no political agenda. They chose to study the impact of the Second Intifada "because of the quality of the data and the fact that mobility was very low in the West Bank during this period".
Mansour, who was born in Haifa, Israel, said: "Fully 94 percent of the mothers in our sample had not moved to a new community since the start of the Intifada."
The authors said their findings had implications well beyond the West Bank and should be considered by policymakers around the world.