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Pregnancy in Prison

Pregnancy is common in prisons in the United States, where most of the women are detained when already pregnant. Some parties have been concerned about the data of the pregnant, especially special interest groups who are interested in the health of the pregnant inmates and the welfare of the children they give birth to (Sufrin, et al., 2019). Research unveils that the federal and state prisons admit nearly 1,400 pregnant women according to the Pregnancy in Prison Statistics (PIPS). More than 800 of the pregnancies end in prison due to births, abortions, and other causes. However, the number has escalated to 58000 admissions of pregnant women annually up to date. Unsurprisingly, considering the short duration of the majority of jail terms, each year observes an increase in the number of expectant women admitted. Nevertheless, many deliveries occur to women who stay longer in the prisons. Therefore, this paper is detailed research, statistics, discussion, challenges, and proposed recommendations on pregnancy in prison.

An overview of the statistics of the pregnant women in prisons can be sampled from various stakeholders such as Pregnancy in Prison Statistics (PIPS), the National Institute of Corrections, and the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women. In 2016, according to researchers, it is possible to follow pregnancy outcomes among confined women in the prisons. Majority of the pregnant women in prison, which is about 92% resulted in healthy babies. A small percentage, 4% of the women sent to state jails were pregnant, which included conscience pregnancy status upon admittance (Fritz & Whiteacre, 2016). A significant number of women who are found to be pregnant when they arrive and have pregnancy-related health care requirements that must be met quickly. On December 31, 2016, the reported prevalence of pregnancy was 0.7 percent across all state facilities and 0.3 percent across all federal institutions. It includes all women in prison, even those that have been there for a long time and who are less likely to get pregnant because of their age and imprisonment. Women who were recently admitted to the prison system, on the other hand, may have been exposed to an environment where they may have gotten pregnant.

State-to-state variance was evident in the results. In Texas and Ohio, for example, there were roughly 50 women who were pregnant in their prisons; this is likely due to the fact that Texas and Ohio had the highest and fourth-largest numbers of jailed women in the United States, respectively.. Similarly, the rates of enrolled pregnant women during July and December varied greatly by state, with Maryland reported the best percentage at 17% and Maine holding the lowest at 1%. Maryland’s increase in the proportion of detained expectant women from July to December 2016 was very certainly related to the previously mentioned policy change, which resulted in the detention of several previously pregnant women in the state prison. Stillbirths represented for 6% of all known preterm delivery; however, these figures vary by state, with some jurisdictions reporting abortions contributing for 20% or more of preterm delivery.

Numerous variables, including state sentencing legislation, prison healthcare organisations, social birthing healthcare coverage, specific health characteristics, and unmeasured variables, all accounted to the state-by-state variation in pregnancy frequency and loss. According to the 2011–2013 National Survey on Family Growth, 5% of women aged 15–44 were pregnant or postpartum during their persecution. To get a fraction of convicted expectant women with a corresponding age denominator, we may estimate that 75% of all the women at Pregnancy in Prison Statistics study locations were between the ages of 18 and 44 in 2016. As a result, the pregnancy rate is 0.8%.. Women who give birth while incarcerated surrender their newborns to the Department of Children and Families and are only allowed to see them on visiting days, just like any other family member (Fritz & Whiteacre, 2016). Being born behind bars is becoming increasingly common as more women are incarcerated – a group that is rising at a pace 50 percent faster than males. According to the American Public Health Association, between 6 to 8% of women in prison or prisons in the United States are pregnant at any given time.

Women aged 15 to 44 in the United States had an overall fertility rate of 62 live births per 1000 women in 2016. An overall fertility rate approximately 18 per 1000 convicted women between the ages of 18 and 44 years old has been estimated based on the statistics. When pregnant women are placed in correctional institutions and women are shackled during labor, the pharmacologically unsafe practices of these practices must be addressed, along with ensuring that pregnant women and their newborns receive adequate care and determining whom would care for the children born to mothers in adult prison.

Statistics suggest that in 2016, nearly 10 percent of newborn birth in the United States were premature, compared to 6 percent of live births in prisons. This reduced preterm birth rate in these jails may be partly explained by the greater availability of antenatal care, nutrition, and accommodation, as well as restricted access to illegal drugs. These situations may alter for certain expectant ladies who are not in prison (Leal, et al., 2016). (Leal, et al., 2016). However, the explanation should be treated with caution, considering the variety in antenatal care access and quality from jail to prison. Furthermore, certain state prison systems had premature birth rates that were greater than the national norm, showing that the setting of the individual prison system, as well as pre-incarceration conditions, may have an effect. It is crucial that correctional facilities have policies that safeguard the health and well-being of pregnant women in their care. Provisions for healthy nutrition and procreative medical care must be established in the policy to guard against negative health outcomes, such as fatalities and low premature birth rates, which can have long-term effects for mothers and their children.

The fact that data on jail pregnancy has never been collected or released on a systematic basis demonstrates a brazen disregard for the welfare and very well of pregnant women in detention. The fact that detained women are contributing members of society must not be forgotten, nor can it be forgotten that the vast majority of them will be released, and that some will produce more offspring while in captivity, mandating the accounting for their pregnancies, should not be overlooked (Roth, 2010). Given the racialized nature of mass incarceration and the fact that incarcerated women are disproportionately women of color, acknowledging what happens to remanded and detained women’s pregnancies is a critical component of wide range of health attempts to learn institutional racism’s influence on incisive discrepancies in maternal health and pregnancy outcomes. Additionally, knowledge and data on imprisoned women’s pregnancies may be used to enhance the outcomes of mothers and their children after they are released. The majority of the children born in prisons are isolated from their mothers after delivery hence severely restricting breastfeeding, bonding, and parental responsibility for their children.

Conclusively, more data is required to manage data from prisons, jails, juvenile and immigration detention centers, and other detention institutions around the US. It’s encouraging to acknowlegde that federal legislations introduced in the US House of Representatives in September 2018 includes a provision mandating researchers to collect pregnancy data from federal, state, and local jails. The findings of the study may be utilized to advocate for national-wide health welfare status for jailed expectant women, establish rehabilitation services for pregnant women, promote childbearing justice, and encourage a larger emphasis on the reproductive health needs of persecuted expectant ladies and their siblings. It is critical that correctional facilities have policies in place to safeguard the health and safety of pregnant women under their care. To avoid negative health results which may imply long-term problems in the future like miscarriage and still births, adequate review on the policies must include provisions for proper eating and procreative medical treatment.


Sufrin, C., Beal, L., Clarke, J., Jones, R., & Mosher, W. D. (2019). Pregnancy outcomes in US prisons, 2016–2017. American journal of public health109(5), 799-805.

Leal, M. D. C., Ayres, B. V. D. S., Esteves-Pereira, A. P., Sánchez, A. R., & Larouzé, B. (2016). Birth in prison: pregnancy and birth behind bars in Brazil. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva21, 2061-2070.

Roth, R. (2010). Obstructing Justice: Prisons as Barriers to Medical Care for Pregnancy Women. UCLA Women’s LJ18, 79.

Fritz, S., & Whiteacre, K. (2016). Prison nurseries: Experiences of incarcerated women during pregnancy. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation55(1), 1-20.


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