Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were the cause of at least half of stillbirths reported in the areas hardest hit by the storms, a new study out of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has found.

The study by Ian Breunig found that stillbirths were highest in parishes that suffered the most damage during the 2005 storms. The numbers of live births was nearly 40 percent lower in 2007 than in 2004 in these areas. Live births fell 79 percent in areas where more than half of residences were damaged.

These births can be attributed to 17.5 percent to 30.5 percent of all deaths related to the hurricanes, he and a team of researchers found.

The findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, said the risk of stillbirths could have been caused by mothers having to relocate.

Stress, drepression and trauma were likely causes of stillborn deaths in the area, the study said.