Health care of pregnant women in U.S. state prisons

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Background. Although standards for pregnancy-related health care in correctional facilities have been established, there is no mandatory accreditation that requires adherence to these standards. Furthermore, this information has been difficult to access from correctional facilities across the country. Methods. To examine the health care practices of pregnant women in state prisons, a survey with 62 multiple choice questions and four open-ended questions was developed. Wardens of 50 women's state correctional facilities were contacted to describe the study and request participation. Nineteen facilities completed the survey, for a 38% response rate. Results. The findings of this study provide further evidence of the substandard care that pregnant incarcerated women receive in correctional facilities. In many state prisons, nutritional recommendations for a healthy pregnancy are not met, adequate rest is compromised and lower bunks are not required. Psychosocial support and education are minimal at best. The use of restraints, which can compromise the health and safety of the woman and her baby, continues as a matter of procedure in many facilities even during labor and delivery. Conclusions. The providers of health care for pregnant women fail to use best practices and established standards in many women's state prisons. A concerted effort is urgently needed to address the unmet health care needs of this marginalized population and support legislation to limit the use of restraints with pregnant incarcerated women in all states. © Meharry Medical College.

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Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved