Female prisoners give birth alone in their cells

Women in some prisons don't have proper access to medical care or contact with midwives, according to a shocking new report.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Female prisoners give birth alone in their cells - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Pregnant and postnatal women in British prisons aren't receiving proper medical care, according to a shocking new report. Some are even giving birth in their cells without a midwife present.

Women in prison often have higher risk pregnancies because of a patchwork of complexities such as trauma, high stress from being in prison and a background of poor mental health.

But these findings show how substandard prison conditions and government cuts to prison services are having a direct, negative effect on pregnant women, new mothers and their babies.

Prison or not, the safety of women and babies should be a priority.

Details from the story:

  • Research by Dr Laura Abbott, a specialist midwife and senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, into conditions for pregnant women in three English prisons found some pregnant women and their babies did not have access to proper medical care.
  • The report highlights cases of women giving births in cells without a midwife present. In one instance, a woman was in labour prematurely, but she was not believed by prison staff. The baby was born premature and feet-first with no trained midwives present.
  • While not thought to be extremely common occurrences, there is no data on how many births in cells take place. Neither the Ministry of Justice or the NHS collects the data.
  • The findings raise concerns about the wellbeing of women and babies in British prisons.
  • Naomi Delap, the director of charity Birth Companions says nobody knows how many pregnant women are in prison or how many give birth inside or in hospital. It estimates that there are 600 pregnant women in prison at one time and 100 give birth each year.
  • Delap also says that lack of access to proper medical care during pregnancy and labour in prisons is a problem across the UK: "How can you really take this problem seriously if you don’t know what the numbers are? We think this is a systemic issue across the board. We’re saying it is not about what happens in individual prisons."
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