10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

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    Image via Flickr/mikecogh

    Imagine finding out you are pregnant, but instead of shopping excitedly for stretchy jeans and cute maternity outfits, you found yourself sporting a very different type of pregnancy style…


    According to the American Journal of Public Health, between 6 and 10 percent of incarcerated women are pregnant; in one year alone, 1,400 women gave birth while incarcerated in the United States.

    So just what exactly is it like to be a pregnant prisoner?

    Let’s take a look…

    {Continued: Prison Pregnancy #1}

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy and The Moments That Made You A Mother. She also ... More

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  1. Profile photo of Chris Chris says:

    The one thing I cannot understand is so many people want the women to keep the child in the prison. To me, this is absolute lunacy. Why would you want a child to be in a prison surrounded by women of questionable decision making and morals? These women are murderers, addicts, drug dealers, thieves, cons.

    If they have family that is willing to take the child, release the child to them. If the inmate has a short sentence, less than 5 years, and no family, foster the child with required visitation so that the child knows its mother when she is released and assumes parenting.

    I also think the prisons should allow one to two support personnel during the labor. There is no reason not to do this as the prison can screen the personnel. The only issue I see is that you never truly know when labor is going to start and the support personnel may not make it in time.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the women who were pregnant and committed the crimes. I have some for those, like the person in the article, who did not know they were pregnant upon entering.

  2. Profile photo of Hannah Hannah says:

    I’m going to comment on this having been a young woman who experienced firsthand being incarcerated at a state correctional facility while pregnant with my first child. I am 23 years old, in recovery from drug addiction (been clean almost 2 years), and was arrested for drug charges when I was barely 18 years old. I was sentenced to 1-3 years in a New York State correctional facility. It was my first and only felony, with only one prior arrest. I spent the first year in prison, and then was released on parole due to good behavior and completing all my required programs. Unfortunately, due to the fact that my mother had moved out of state, my home address was not approved and I was placed into a shelter and while searching for employment, I was on social services and really struggling to stay clean and sober. I had one relapse, and my parole officer violated my parole and I was sent back to county jail and then was transferred to state prison. I found out I was pregnant, and luckily my now fiance and child’s father was very supportive and stuck with me through everything. While in county jail, I was housed with the general population, so there was no separation between pregnant and not pregnant inmates. There were several fights that actually broke out between the women that involved a pregnant woman, and she wasn’t even taken to the hospital to check on her or the safety or wellbeing of her baby. I was refused a vegetarian diet (even though i have been vegetarian my whole life), and when i explained this to the Dr. I was told that I had to deal with it, that I would not be allowed Ensure or a special diet- even though other inmates were afforded such things. I have a seizure disorder and not once did I see a neurologist or a doctor for my condition. When i went before the parole board, I was placed in waistchains (which is illegal in NY) and shackles. When I was around 20 weeks, I was told that i was going to have a fetal anatomy scan to make sure everything was okay with my baby, and yet it never happened. It was just a very stressful, lonely, scary situation especially it being my first pregnancy. When I was transferred to prison, I was seen by a high-risk OBGYN every 2 weeks. I was still kept in general population, however the pregnant inmates wear different clothing than the rest of the inmates so in case of any fights or medical emergencies they can be easily identified. There were about 15 other pregnant women there, and we all shared a comraderie which helped ease a lot of the day to day anxiety. Still, I waited 2 months before seeing a neurologist and only saw one after i suffered a seizure. One of the worst times I had there was when I finally had an ultrasound and was not allowed to see the screen, was not allowed to know the sex of my baby, or even if things looked okay or not. It was heartbreaking. Despite all that, I can say that my experience in Bedford Hills wasn’t terrible, it was just really hard being away from my family and my fiance, and it was hard for him too not being able to have an active role in my prenatal care. I was fortunate enough to have been released before my baby was born, but for the mothers that have time to do, the fact that they are able to spend at least the first year in the nursery with their baby is a god send, and a wonderful opportunity that they are very thankful for. I know and have done time with the women who kept their babies and although they may have messed up and made mistakes in their past, that doesn’t change that they love and are doing the right thing for their children NOW. By the way, they go through a long screening process to be able to be let in to the nursery program, so women who have serious violent crimes, sex offenses, or any history of child abuse or neglect are not candidates for the program. The women are mothers before they are inmates; they love, care for, and bond with their children and many of them go on to finish their GED’s, or take college classes because even though they are in prison, they learn that they are more than what they thought they ever could be and they have something to live and be a better person for; their children.

  3. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I think that incarcerated pregnant women should be treated with better prenatal care, labor and delivery, and also postpartum period. I think incarcerated pregnant women should be allowed to keep their baby/babies with them while finishing their time out. It’s against what the good Lord up above created for this earth. It’s nothing but Satan taking control of this earth and destroying what God made. And in my opinion, we in this world should not have police, jails and prisons in general.We should NOT even have laws except the ones in the Holy Bible and that’s it. People this day in time need to obey the 10 COMMANDMENTS in the Bible, not laws that man or humans make up.

  4. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    Most states now have laws that no restraints are used during an Offenders time in prison. The fact that they can’t have family in the room is for security reasons for staff of the hospital, staff of the prison and safety for the offender. If you look at some states they is not a pregnancy unit. I have seen violent and dangerous offenders with no restraints but extra precautions were taken.

  5. Profile photo of Dayzee Dayzee says:

    It depends on the state. I’ve taught Domestic Violence prevention in the prison system. There are women’s prisons who allow the baby to stay with mom for the first 18 months of life, providing parenting classes, etc. All good ideas and I’ve seen women who turned their lives around because they weren’t separated from their newborn.
    By the way, for those making judgment calls-85% of incarcerated women were sexually abused as children. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize there is a connection.

  6. Profile photo of danielle danielle says:

    The article below makes some great points as an alternative to just taking those babies away from their mothers and I thought I would share. On another note.. We are all entitled to our own opinions but the way some of you attack others who don’t agree with or share the same opinion as yourself is immature. Those of you with the mindset of ‘you do the crime, you pay the time,’ obviously we are all aware of the fact that our actions, good or bad, come with consequences. But it’s not like these woman intentionally got pregnant before deciding to break the law. Sometimes a lapse in judgment, last minute decision, makes people do things completely out of character. I began researching this topic because I have a cousin who recently gave birth in prison and had her daughter taken from her only hours later. These woman aren’t asking for ‘special treatment.’ Really I wouldn’t even think they are thinking of themselves at all. The first 2 years of a child’s life are the most important for developing that bond. More than likely, the kids who get put into the system or taken away are probably more prone to living a life of crime. The mother would also be more likely to stay away from that lifestyle if some thing were changed to be sure that the mothers and babies stay together. We are only human and everyone deserves a chance or even a second chance at turning their lives around.


  7. Profile photo of AJ12345 AJ12345 says:

    You do the crime you pay the time. The only thing I do not agree with is the loss of the parental rights. Other than that, why do you deserve special treatment for committing the same crime a man committed because you are pregnant? They give you special wards in the prison and a number of services that pregnant women who aren’t supported by tax payers as a result of their own f*** ups can’t get/afford. You wanted equality and you have it – both positive and negative. Nothing in this article is inhumane and you have serious entitlement issues.

  8. Profile photo of Angharad Angharad says:

    You missed one, but that’s only because prisons work overtime to keep this one quiet.

    A LOT of prisoners are shackled to the bed while in labor. Some are handcuffed by one hand to the bed; some are handcuffed with both. There have been cases where some REALLY kindhearted (/sarcasm) have had an ankle or two cuffed to the stirrups once the pushing stage was entered. A lot of these women weren’t in a supermax, and hadn’t been convicted of a violent crime; some of them were doing a few months for a bad check.

    Even though any convict in labor has a corrections officer sitting outside the L&D room to only allow those who are have been okayed by the prison to be admitted, these women aren’t even allowed the comfort of being able to change positions or walk within their room to handle the pain. Some are denied pain control (especially if they were convicted of a drugs charge), and a few are even given epidurals against their wishes so that they literally cannot make a run for it.

    It’s inhuman.

  9. I think , As long as they aren’t endangering there own child , there should be other options available to the women who are pregnant and incarcerated. I also think there should be able to keep there babies after they give birth. If this was allowed the suicide rate for those women would probably go down significantly.

  10. Profile photo of Kristal Kristal says:

    SMH… I don’t think passing judgement on these women is ANY of our business. What I do believe is that that should be treated gracefully. In most other countries pregnant “offenders” get to keep their babies with them in a special part of the prison. I believe that these women should get to keep their babies with them in such a manner. Maybe a half-way house for those that are low risk and for those with more serious offenses than they should still be able to keep their babies for up to a couple years in a special “mom and baby” part of the prison. I believe that the mother’s behavior while incarcerated should be taken into consideration and get some time cut off for taking classes and good conduct. The United States penal system is insanely overpopulated. MOST of these people NEED mental health care, or substance abuse treatment but that isn’t how our government likes to operate. Throw them in a cell and cost the taxpayers billions…there are other options, like helping those that need it, not just locking them up. These moms deserve a chance, not to mention their child needs them. They’d be watched over carefully and the ones deemed unfit should have to face the consequences(not being able to have their child with them…). I will always choose to approach the judgement of others with compassion, grace and love-just like Christ. I choose not to ride a high horse, I am God’s child just like ANY of these women and God bless them.

  11. Profile photo of Jennifer Jennifer says:

    I could have easily gone to prison for things I was doing but the second I found out I was pregnant my life changed. Been drug free for the last 13 years and have 3 boys that are my world. Some people may not change but some will. I have full custody and placement of my oldest 2 one 50/50 of my youngest, they’re in Scouts and we do many fun family activities. If I would have went to prison and lost my children, they would be missing out on the life that I was willing to give them. Life was no longer about me and having fun, I had a baby to be concerned about and I didn’t think twice about changing. The mentality of a young single person is different than that of a true “mother.” Not everyone is meant to be a mother and giving birth does not make them a mother but they should be given the option to do right if it’s their first child. If they already have children then they obviously don’t put their children first and it’s different.

  12. Profile photo of Kiersten Kiersten says:

    I feel that if our system looked more at the infants health (aside from the mothers) and the statistics of the mother infant bond in the first, lets say week of life, they might view things differently. Instead of focusing on the prisoner, let’s focus our attention on the newborn and the CRITICAL bonding and attachment period that is supposed to happen. Mothers absolutely need to be allowed more access to their newborn if not for anything else but the child’s sake.
    There are so many immediate chemical, physiological and emotional connections that are critical for the newborns brain to develop in a healthy way. Statistics show that if the baby does not receive this it hinders their attachment for the rest of their life! How sad that because of their mothers choice, the baby has to suffer.

  13. Profile photo of nichole nichole says:

    i agree with the other gals on here. If you are the one doing the crime while pregnant then yes you need to be incarcerated. Yes it stinks that you have to go through all of that but you shouldnt have committed the crime. DONT BE A CRIMINAL WHILE PREGNANT( or any other time really).

  14. Profile photo of Neil Neil says:

    No. I absolutely do not feel that pregnant women should be “forced” to go to prison. The people “forcing” them to commit crimes should stop doing so, immediate- wait, what? These women voluntarily commit crimes? Whilst pregnant? no sir!!! lunacy!

    If you commit a crime that calls for incarceration, yep. You go to prison. You don’t pass go. You don’t collect 200. Instead of pissing and moaning about whether these women should be in jail while pregnant, MAYBE WE SHOULD BE TELLING THEM NOT TO BE CRIMINALS WHILE BEING PREGNANT.

    I’m just saying…

  15. Profile photo of Jayden Jayden says:

    I have no sympathy. If you can’t do the time, DON’T DO THE TIME. It doesn’t matter if you’re pregnant, diabetic, have ADHD, are autistic, are stupid, have had a “bad” childhood, are psychopathic, or whatever. If you commit a crime, be prepared to face the consequences, and, being an adult who is the ONLY PERSON responsible for your actions, act like an adult (not a baby) and deal with the consequences of your actions.

  16. Profile photo of GLENN GLENN says:

    First of all, unless you are a violent offender, you should not be going to prison in the first place. Most citizens who are sent to prison do not belong there. Prisons as designed for violent people. Unfortunately there are people in the United States who believe that people who break laws, any laws, need to go to prison in order to “pay” back society for their misdeeds. WRONG. When someone commits a NON VIOLENT crime especially women who are pregnant need to be given the tools and support systems that will help them to learn from their mistakes and be given an opportunity “make it right” with whom they’ve wronged. For someone to be so calloused as to say something like, “do the crime, do the time”, “you should have thought about that before you had unprotected sex and then committed a crime”. To those people I say, “you are part of the problem”. You should be saying to yourself, “I am so thankful that I have been afforded the grace (unmerited favor) to have never been sent to prison for what I have done in my lifetime. We as a society need to stand up for those who have stumbled by telling the courts and criminal justice system that there is no room in our prisons for non-violent offenders absolutely no room. There are dozens of alternatives that are far more productive. The question that was asked by Ms. Brusie should never had to of been asked. Violent Offenders need to be removed from society until there has been obvious changes. The women who have been convicted of a violent crime and sentenced to prison and are pregnant upon entering, need to be shown respect and gentleness not for the sake of the mother but for the sake of the unborn child who did absolutely nothing wrong to deserve being born in such harsh and hateful conditions. I have no play for anyone who would say otherwise. Thank you for reading what I HAD to say. And may the Paradigm you are currently living in have room for those who have made some mistakes and could use a little help especially if they are pregnant. And to the haters of those who stumble, “stand by” because your life is going to be turned upside down. I promise! G

    • Glenn, I joined this community because of your comment, you did a better job at solving the problem than most elected officials have…. it is a travesty anytime achild has to be born in behind bars . I think it would be in the best interst of all involved to make sure that mother and child has proper pre and post-natal care.

    • Profile photo of Ruth Ruth says:

      I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this. Whether or not someone is imprisoned, pregnant or not, MUST depend upon their past record. What if a prisoner is a repeat offender? Is burglary a non-violent crime? So, if you are a chronic burglar, for lack of a better phrase, are we just supposed to give these people a slap on the wrist?

      I’m sorry, but I consider drug offenses to BE violent crimes. Those substances are going into the hands and brains of CHILDREN.

      But to be imprisoned for LITTERING? Passing a bad check? Please.

      Pregnant women should NEVER, EVER be forced to labor alone. They are people, too; no matter what they did that caused them to be incarcerated. Their FAMILIES should be called, and I am quite sure there are plenty of volunteers who would be willing to support these women during the most important time of their lives.

      Pregnant women should ALSO never be placed in belly chains and shackles. There are many other alternatives that are much safer. Also, if they are in the room alone, WHY are they being handcuffed?? WHY should a male prison guard be present as a woman labors??

      No doubt about it, this is something that should be addressed on a federal level. We have a Violence Against Women Act, and it could easily be amended. And if doing such barbaric things to pregnant prisoners isn’t violent, then I don’t know what is.

  17. Profile photo of Ashleigh Ashleigh says:

    I agree that you get the punishment from the choices that you make, but on the other hand I would think the state could take a little better prenatal care for these women.

  18. Profile photo of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

    Speaking from experience… If I knew I was pregnant, I would not put myself in a situation that would land me in jail during my pregnancy or that would cause me to be in jail past my due date. That said, it all comes down to the choices you make… Judges have given so many second chances out, only to be disappointed when a familiar face enters their courtroom, that they had to become harsh towards a lot of pregnant women. Everyone isn’t a criminal, but the majority of us have made mistakes and gotten away with them. I don’t condone the way pregnant people are treated in jail but thats what happens when you go to jail. They make the experience as unbearable as possible so people don’t want to come back. And I really feel for women who are innocent that are in prison because that really sucks. Moral of my story is… Try your best to abide by the law if little ones or pregnancy is involved, because it is not pretty. I have never been pregnant in prison, but I have been to the county jail for a week stint and heard/saw the horror stories. I now abide by the law in any way possible because I would never want my kids taken away from me, my parental rights snatched away from me, or deliver a baby in jail/prison. Its all up to the CHOICES YOU MAKE…

    • Profile photo of Ruth Ruth says:

      I agree with you. I wonder, however, just HOW those judges would feel if it was THEIR daughter going through this.

      As for non-violent crimes — Is burglary a non-violent crime? What if you are a repeat burglar?

      Many consider drug offenses to be non-violent crimes, but I do not. Those drugs are poison, and they are being placed in the hands of CHILDREN.

      That said, women should NEVER, EVER be forced to labor alone. There is absolutely NO reason why the family cannot be called. I am quite sure there are PLENTY of volunteers who would be available to give these women the support they need as they are bringing their child into the world.

      Belly chains? They should NEVER be used on a pregnant woman unless she is a violent offender. Period. I agree that these women must be guarded. But surely there is something different than a chain that can be used. At some point, one must consider the baby.

  19. Life is full of choices & the world is also full of people, that have no clue about the consequences of poor choices.
    Take the time today; to lovingly explain the circle of life & how good choices give good consequences & bad choices give bad consequences…. it will go a long way to creating a better society; a society in which this would not be a topic of discussion… “Work Hard & Be Nice” it’s really that simple!!!

  20. Profile photo of Rebecca Rebecca says:

    Wow, Cammie. It’s sad that you really think that. I for one can attest to never committing any crime where punishment would involve imprisonment. The worst I have done is a traffic violation. No underage drinking, no drugs, no shoplifting, and not even a trial puff of a cigarette. Now I’m not judging these women because I don’t claim to know their situation, I merely wanted to point out the irony of your statement. While complaining about the judgment of others, you are judging all others as criminals themselves. I hate to think of the crowd you hang around if everyone you know in your circle has committed a crime, regardless of how trivial you may think it is.

  21. Profile photo of cammie cammie says:

    What gets me is all the comments on this post about “she should have thought about that before she committed a crime & got pregnant”. Who do you think YOU are? There is not ONE person that has not at some point in their lives committed a (even if tiny) infraction that could have landed them in jail. You just didn’t get caught. So, why don’t you stop being all judgmental about women you don’t even know. You can never know how you would handle everything life has to throw at you & you may find yourself (or your child, or grandchild) behind bars one day. Wouldn’t you want to be treated with respect and dignity?

    • Profile photo of Ruth Ruth says:

      Yes, there ARE people in this world who have NEVER committed a crime. In my life, I have had exactly THREE speeding tickets, one ticket for failure to yield the right-of-way, and one ticket for almost getting killed by a motorcyclist who ran a red light.

      No crimes. No jail time. Nothing.

      But I still know the difference between right and wrong, and these pregnant prisoners are being horribly abused.

    • Profile photo of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

      Yes some of these comments are harsh, but those women ARE responsible for their own actions. Im sorry but that is why they make it harsh in jail for pregnant women, so they wont come back and others wont want to come in. Now i really feel for you if you didn’t know you were pregnant and land behind bars for years. That sucks. But either way they shouldn’t be treated like dogs/animals just because they made a mistake… Some of that stuff is just cruel and unusual punishment . Seriously… So think before you act please.

      • Profile photo of Kahlilah Kahlilah says:

        But I agree with you Cammie. Whether your pregnant or not… Abide by the law at all costs… Coming from a reformed criminal. I was pregnant at my trial and the judge felt that I knew what I did was wrong and that it will never happen again, so he gave me a lot of leniency, because I was pregnant. I don’t hang around people who are criminally inclined, I have become a shut-in, literally… All I do is take care of my kids, work, and read internet posts and books… The only time I venture out is to have fun with my kids. I am now 30 weeks pregnant and on probation for a year and Id be darned if I EVER go back to jail or get on the wrong side of the law again. Ive learned my lesson. But seriously some of you people in these comments are very cruel and its sad to see you don’t have at least a little bit of sympathy or empathy for these women. You probably have never been on the wrong side of the tracks or had a very good upbringing to have had comment like that. You have never been in trouble but 9 times out of 10 you’ve gotten away with criminally inclined activities. Rebecca, I don’t buy that crap about just a traffic violation, and if it is true you were probably born in the suburbs to 2 working class parents, have a degree on your wall of accomplishments, and you’re probably MARRIED too. Now if I’m wrong, I guess I’m just a judgmental witch with a b instead of the w, but I seriously doubt it. Seriously doubt it… Oh and she’s probably a CHRISTIAN as well. Sorry this got my pot stirred.

        • Profile photo of Ruth Ruth says:

          What difference does it make if you are a Christian? I come from a family of four kids. We were all raised thehe same way, and all of us turned out differently.

          I was born to working class parents as well.

          My point is that nobody is perfect, but not everyone has committed a crime at some time in their lives.

  22. Profile photo of Joe Joe says:

    AAAAAhhhhhh poor babies. The mothers are totally responsible for the situation that they are in. They had the freedom of choice. The choice to be a criminal or not! The choice to have unprotected sex! They exercised their right to choose and obviously chose poorly. Don’t make them out to be some kind of victims, the real victims here are the people who were the target of their criminal activity.

  23. Profile photo of Connie Connie says:

    Are we supposed to feel sorry for them? Seriously….they committed a crime, they should have thought of that BEFORE they got pregnant. I don’t feel sorry for them. Be responsible for your actions, for your own lives…..YOU are the one that was in the wrong…just because you got pregnant when you got caught doesn’t give you a free pass to stay/get outta jail! Women are so irresponsible about their own bodies and they are dragging another life into the drama.

  24. Profile photo of Virginia Virginia says:

    Prisoners should have adequate medical treatment. Privacy, freedom and dignity is what you give up when you violate the laws. If they really cared about the child they would not break the law. Sorry, but that should prevent you from breaking the laws! Where are the mothering instincts when breaking the law? So, lesson learned, I hope!

  25. Profile photo of Brooke Brooke says:

    Laboring alone isn’t something only women in jail have to do…plenty of ladies out there have their children alone. Some of these facts aren’t just facts for women in jail which is pretty silly.

    That being said I don’t feel sorry for women who are incarcerated during their pregnancy. To me there is no bigger way to show you don’t care about your child than to act irresponsibly around it, especially while carrying it. I can only hope that the children born to incarcerated mothers receive good care from people on the outside because it’s apparent that most will not be getting it from their mothers for one reason or another. If you’re out on the streets thieving and rocking the boat you’re not ready to be a parent. Thank goodness a lot of jails don’t embrace the idea that these ladies are special and deserve to spend time with their kids etc because some actually do-for mothers only of course because I guess dads don’t matter?
    Jails are not a place for a baby. Let this be a lesson to those of you out there who play around with the law-this could be you and you don’t want that. Seems to me like there are a lot of incarcerated mothers who want to play the victim here. Another selfish act, your child is the victim if this is how it’s brought into the world. It’s amazing how self centered and pathetic people can be. Boo hoo, maybe next time you’ll think twice about breaking the law.