10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 by from Blog from the Belly

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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}

What do you think? 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pregnancy in Prison

Chaunie BrusieAuthor

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. She began serving as an advocate for young mothers after discovering her own two tiny blue lines during her senior year of college. She blogs about her journey as a young mom of three at www.tinybluelines.com and her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, is now available. Find Chaunie on ... More

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  1. Avatar of ShariLeann ShariLeann says:

    There are two ways to ensure that you do not have a baby in prison. One, stay on birth control, or, two, do not break the law to begin with. I do not have any sympathy for someone that is in prison. They broke the law, they are doing their time. Dad always told me, “Sympathy is between shit and syphilis in a dictionary.” I have foster children, their parents are in prison. They have pretty much screwed up their kids lives. These kids would have been much better off if they would have been taken away at birth.

  2. Avatar of Dan Dan says:

    Sounds like a bleeding heart Liberals story with a misinformed or misdirected agenda!
    Like most of the midwest, I grew up in an economically depressed town.
    Many of my childhood friends have gone in and out of jail.
    But none of them went to jail for there first offense.

    Infact the court did everything they could to keep county cost to a minimum.
    Even when Jail time was involved the person got a lawywer and spent months and months of time out of jail while there were Plea deals put up. If a woman was pregnant, she could have already had the baby before her sentencing date. On the other hand, I’ve also known someone who finally went to jail for shoplifting. Only to be set free before he completed his first week of sentencing because he had a heart condition and faked a heart attack. The medcal cost to the county would have been too much, so they set him free.

    Now if someone had said they had a good job and they got fined heavy in court for speeding, that I would believe.
    The courts found someone they could get revenue from. THE NEXT TIME YOU GET A SPEEDING TICKET, GO LOOK THROUGH THE COUNTY COURT RECORDS AND COMPARE YOUR SPEEDING FINE TO SOMEONE WHO WAS CAUGHT, Shoplifting, with drugs, selling small quantities of drugs, ect. AND SEE JUST HOW MUCH MORE YOUR FINE WAS THAN THERE’S !!!!!!

  3. Avatar of Debi Debi says:

    It is very sad about these women… but they committed a crime.. they have to do the time. We can not make special arrangements for every type of thing that comes up.. I think they might take part of the prison and make it into a small area for women that are pregnant. There is no good answer for this..

  4. Avatar of Tina Tina says:

    My grand daughter was born while her mama was incarcerated and I thank god she was. Had my daughter not been in prison I don’t feel she would have taken care of herself properly during her pregnancy. Since she was locked up I knew she was clean(drug free) and seeing a doctor regularly. I was present at the babies birth and brought her home and raised her for the first 7 mos my daughter missed. I also drove 1 1/12 hrs twice a week the first 6 wks so they could bond and nurse…I brought milk home every trip to last till the next time we went. After the 6 wks I went every Sunday for 4-6 hrs so they could bond more. My grand baby knows who her mama is. My daughter has since been released and has been home since Feb 2014 and is a great mother.
    I thank KDOC for that …I do!

  5. Avatar of Bonita Bonita says:

    The majority of the commentators are completely missing the point. The baby is the one that gets punished. Yes, the mother and father get punished, BUT the baby committed no crime. Sadly this article sugar coats the actual process. A close friend of mine was sentenced to prison for traffic charges (driving on a suspended license and lapsed insurance). She was pregnant with twins. She went into premature labor. The guards delayed/did not believe her. By the time she reached the hospital one of her babies had already ascended into the birth canal and died due to complications. She was fortunate enough to have a husband to pick up the babies after their birth but he did not get any information on why he was bringing home 1 baby instead of 2. It was over a week before her husband got any answers.
    You may be eating for 2 or 3, but you will only get fed for 1. Some prisons do give an afternoon snack of some type of sandwich but otherwise all meals are the same as other prisoners.
    Anyways, point is the baby is innocent. Yet sometimes the baby is who suffers the most. Furthermore, not every incarcerated woman is some hardened criminal. This must be the most heartless group sharing their thoughts here. People can end up in prison over ONE MISTAKE/ONE ACTION, ONCE, ONE DAY in their lives. Drop the witch hunt.

  6. Avatar of Lilly Lilly says:

    I do sympathize but guilty criminals though needing to be treated humanely shouldn’t use pregnancy as a scape goat for their actions. Actions have consequences, each case should be taken into consideration as to the type of criminal behavior. There are many mothers with less resources available to them in worse situations and yet we haven’t addressed this. Why should I give priority to prisoners who break the laws do they have more rights than law biding people? I admit the system is messed up but this is my opinion. My point of view is of one who has experienced injustice in life but still remained law biding and am wondering why prisoners make demands as though they deserve better treatment than the regular joe shmoe???

  7. Avatar of Pat Pat says:

    I do have a sincere sympathy for the women who have babies and then they are taken away.. In this country we have let people use “CRUTCHES” way to often, they made bad choices and when you choose to break the law it is a good possibility that some where down the road you are going to jail. I have to say you should either not break the law or do not have unprotected sex. It is not only affecting you the Mother but the child, Why make the incarceration harder than it should be. There are no excuses for putting your life in this kind of mess, use your head and keep your butt out of jail to start with.

  8. Avatar of Ronald Ronald says:

    One no special treatment . Reason is that there are some women that would have sperm smuggled in to get themselves pregnant . and how many women would get pregnant to stay out of jail. I wish that this would not happen so we can cut some women some slack but

  9. Avatar of Lori Lori says:

    I think it depends on the crime. If it was a non-violent crime, then maybe special treatment could be considered such as a correctional facility where the woman can give birth and keep the infant with her if her sentence is less than a year. Maybe the facility could be set up more like a group home, but with tighter security. Each “cell” being large enough to facilitate a crib. The moms could have supervised access to a group kitchen to use the fridge, water etc. Again, only for those women who were not charged with a violent crime.

    • Avatar of Michelle Michelle says:

      I like your idea, but in this day and age I am sorry to say that I don’t see it happening any time soon. If only this and other better changes to the world might be made to better help and protect the innocent children.

  10. Avatar of Benjamin Benjamin says:

    Cold heart of the judges? LOL If it were that being pregnant kept you out of prison, could you imagine the chaos of that scenario?

  11. Avatar of VVanNess VVanNess says:

    I agree with most other reviewers. Prison is not supposed to be pleasant. If you break the law, there are consequences, and likely individuals know what the consequences are before they break the law. Just because prison happens to interfere with their life plans doesn’t mean they should get special attention, as if prisoners didn’t already get all kinds of perks they shouldn’t.

    It sounds like prisons are doing what they need to to take care of prisoners as they should that happen to get pregnant during their incarceration. They should not get special care. THEY ARE IN PRISON! :)

  12. Avatar of Rebekkah Rebekkah says:

    I do feel bad because of the fact that women who are pregnant and deliver their baby only have 24 hours with them but had they not broken the law they would have all the time they wanted with their baby. Just one more reason to stay out of trouble with the law.

  13. Avatar of George George says:

    “Should women who become pregnant or are already pregnant be forced to become prisoners or should other options be made available?”

    If I’m not mistaken, they’re not forced to become prisoners. They become prisoners because they broke the law. The woman interviewed for this article was willingly attempting to pass a stolen check off as her own.

    They have two options: Become a criminal or do not become a criminal. They shouldn’t get a get out of jail free card just because they’re pregnant.

  14. Avatar of Jenna Jenna says:

    cold heartedness of the judges ? Give me a break, you don’t get sympathy because you don’t deserve sympathy. Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Not only have you messed up for yourself, you’ve messed up for your unborn baby, and you should be given worse punishment for being so irresponsible

  15. Avatar of George George says:

    Make special accommodations for pregnant women in prison. Good pre-natal care, assisted delivery, on-site breast feeding (bonding). Parental rights should not be affected by length of incarceration !

  16. Avatar of Yazdyeys Yazdyeys says:

    I have already read a few comments to this effect, but what has been said is true. If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime. If you want to cry leniency for a person just because she is pregnant, then where do you draw the line. You start with “lesser offenses” and it just opens the door for the same “leniency” for serious offenses. Every action has a snowball effect. Do you know what the effect of the $350 check was? It’s entirely possible that it lead to loss of home or life. If someone died over it, would you still say it was “just” a $350 check? Are we then saying that when a woman becomes pregnant it is license for her to brake any and all laws she feels like?

    As for sympathy…? Don’t for one second think that it isn’t there or expressed. I myself have given the “moral support” mentioned in this article on a number of occasions. I work for a prison and have had to oversee security for inmates in a hospital. When I see a need of it, I have spoken with inmates about their circumstances and how to improve them. I have given hope when they are feeling that there is none. I KNOW for a FACT that I am not the only officer that does so. Aside from officers, they get the same from medical staff, and metal health support is provided by the prisons themselves. From a financial stand point it is actually better to be pregnant in prison. All medical needs, physical and mental, are provided for them at possibly no cost at all. Bluntly put, if she doesn’t like the circumstances of being pregnant in a prison, DON’T BE IN A PRISON IN THE FIRST PLACE. She has COMPLETE and TOTAL control of whether or not she goes to prison. That sentence says it all. I could go through and comment on every one of the 10 points from the article, but that would be too lengthy and the underlying truth stays the same. If you don’t want to be treated like a crook, don’t BE a crook. P.E.R.I.O.D. No Ifs, Ands, or Buts about it.

    • Avatar of Natalie Natalie says:

      I was once a C/O. I also have given a great deal of moral support. Although I worked with the male population I was frequently assigned special duties with the women. Holding hands during childbirth was not uncommon for me. It’s a high stress situation, but when handled with the appropriate care and sensitivity, and without compromising security the female inmate can be eased through it. Not a pleasant situation for the woman, but it can be handled with compassion without, again, compromising your position as an Officer.

  17. Avatar of Steven Steven says:

    So you’re pregnant and don’t want to be in jail – don’t do something that will land you in jail
    So you’re pregnant and can’t afford something – have a husband with a job
    So you’re pregnant and don’t have a husband – don’t get pregnant
    So you’re thinking about getting pregnant …

  18. Avatar of DJ DJ says:

    Anyone who thinks that these women get adequate prenatal care has obviously never been in or to a prison or even worse a county jail. I had a run-in with the law myself due to bad choices and while I was awaiting my day in court I was in a pod with a pregnant woman who was serving a 6 month sentence in county jail while pregnant. Unlike prison, where there are constitutionally mandated rights, in county jail you can be forced to go for a week or longer without access to showers, no opportunity to exercise other than walking around a 25 foot by 20 foot room with four tables bolted in the middle, and food that didn’t even begin to reach the minimum standards of healthy for anyone, much less someone who is pregnant. If she had to go to see a doctor, she was not only shackled and forced to wear a belly chain, but any medication or changes that the doctor ordered had to be approved by another so-called doctor (who never even set foot on the premise or knew anything about the prisoner’s medical history). If this second doctor didn’t agree with the medication or changes, they didn’t happen, even though it was a high-risk pregnancy. At least for non-violent offenders, there should be alternate sentencing possibilities, especially if they are pregnant.

    • Avatar of steve steve says:

      My wife is facing drug charges from before we became preg anyway i am going to bail her out. but i am worried and your reply to the article seemed to be the most insightful. The only reason i would leave her to rot in county is because i know she cannot smoke ciggs and that is a benefit.

      • Avatar of Natalie Natalie says:

        You really do need to consider leaving her stay where she is. Seems like she may not have access to drugs as readily, protect your unborn child.

  19. Avatar of jOSEPHINE jOSEPHINE says:

    I gave birth on active duty. The prenatal care is better in prison. This sounds a lot easier . The one difference was I was allowed to ask for the chaplain, and when another female from my old unit gave birth, she was allowed to call my home from the hospital, which they are actually not supposed to do. before cell phone proliferation, of course.

    • Avatar of Bonita Bonita says:

      First of all, thank you for your service Josephine!! But I would like to point out these commentators views could be applied to your situation. “Don’t get pregnant.” “You had a choice,” “Don’t have unprotected sex,” or one of my particular faves above “You don’t get sympathy because you deserve it.”
      I do not agree with the other commentators. Most are just too quick to judge. Anyways, thanks again for protecting our country so every citizen can share their views…no matter how ridiculous.

  20. Avatar of Teresa Teresa says:

    Horrifying. Seems the ever growing industry of incarceration is ensuring a growing, future population stream to imprison.

  21. Avatar of Rian Rian says:

    For the people being sympathetic toward this woman, please remember this – she IS a criminal and was rightly sentenced for her crimes. Had she chosen to remain a law abiding citizen, she would NOT have had to endure the ordeal of being “pregnant in prison” and risking the loss of their children and parental rights. She should have thought about her actions before she made the choice to break the law.

  22. Avatar of Lacey Lacey says:

    READ THE ARTICLE!!!! This lady was incarcerated for LITTERING and passing a THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLAR stolen check!!! Stealing is NOT okay, but at the same time, you do not know this woman’s individual circumstances. I used to be on food stamps, but thanks to the economy, I get NONE now and no medicaid! I currently work EXTREMELY HARD at the hardest, most physically draining, and most mentally draining job I have EVER worked at. (I am NOT one of those who sit on my behind and live off the government!!) I am a single mother just trying to make it. My meager paycheck ALL goes to bills and is still not enough. I needed the food stamps because I work so hard, and still needed help due to the fact that I am raising a child on my own, with NO help from the father. It has been REALLY ROUGH not having the foodstamps now and my bills that I was not able to pay in full ALREADY has been cut back EVEN MORE since I’m having to try to take as little as I can out to get by on food. So with me ALREADY doing poorly, if I was to lose my job TODAY, and because I have no foodstamps and no money now due to job loss, if I had to STEAL FOOD to feed my 7 year old son, YOU BET YOUR BEHIND I WOULD!! Or if I had to steal in ANY WAY to provide NECESSITIES for him, I WOULD IN A HEARTBEAT!! (I wouldn’t be out stealing make up, fun toys, candy, or trying to live frivolously, I would be stealing the BARE MINIMUM I had to that were COMPLETE NECESSITIES!! Like the food I already mentioned, hygiene products, clothing if needed REALLY bad. Like if he can’t fit in his ONLY pair of shoes and has NONE at all, obviously I have ZERO money, NO ONE would help me, and he had to go to school with no shoes, I would go to a thrift store and try to steal the cheapest pair of shoes possible. Say I happened to be pregnant, and got caught stealing food or necessities for my 7 year old son, I would HOPE that the judge would find an alternative method of punishment. Everyone is so quick to judge. I understand if they’re pregnant and stealing to get money for drugs, then they NEED to be in jail. But every situation is different and people SHOULDN’T be so quick to judge. SOME people need HELP instead of PUNISHMENT! With this economy being the way it is now, all government assistance getting cut, the poverty rate is going WAY UP! If someone has to steal to survive, and they’re pregnant, other means of punishment should be given.

    • Avatar of Yazdyeys Yazdyeys says:

      Criminal history is a valid point. Just saying to “read the article” means absolutely nothing. There is ALWAYS more going on in a situation than is included in any article.

    • Avatar of Natalie Natalie says:

      Did anyone check her criminal history? There are a lot of criminals that minimize their criminal histories.

    • Avatar of Rian Rian says:

      You can polish a turd but in the end, it’s still a turd. Regardless of the circumstances you claim might surround her situation, she’s STILL a criminal. Don’t want to suffer the consequences?? Then don’t break the law.

  23. Avatar of Gina Gina says:

    I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for this girl, or others in her situation. She doesn’t like the humiliation, she doesn’t think she should be sentenced to prison when pregnant, etc? Don’t do the crime. Her decisions got her there and the permissiveness and entitlement in this society just keep people doing things like this and expecting it to be okay and people to feel sorry for them. Disgusting.

  24. Avatar of Lisa Lisa says:

    Glad the comment section was not full of bleeding hearts… I am a RN in a prison…. being pregnant in prison sucks… but it keeps them off drugs, away from abusive domestic situations, and assures that they will have prenatal care/vitamins/etc. The judges in my state (Hawaii) usually try to get an alternate program or sentence for a female that is pregnant. Usually they are not in jail for long unless they have serious charges. The baby will go to family members. Most of the pregnant females I have dealt with have been pregnant many times, are not responsible parents, and often drug-users (meth commonly). Our recidivism rates are quite depressing with many of these females in and out of jail frequently. What I advocate for is family planning education in prisons and the provision of contraception as desired by the inmate upon release from jail. This would help the female in having one less thing/responsibility to worry about as she tries to make it in the cruel hard world and also it will reduce general state expeniture on high risk pregnancies and childcare provision.

    • Avatar of Maryann Maryann says:

      I support your comments – I have worked in the Prison System (about 6 years in the Women’s Facility in Shakopee, MN) and about the same in the Men’s Medium Security ( in Lino Lakes, MN). I was a Chemical Dependency and Mental Health Therapist. There are always times that shock a person – like the guy that was bragging about having 12 kids (known as a “breeder” in the system) and didn’t know the name of 1 single child or their dates of birth…. There was a young woman that that had her baby while in Treatment – the baby went to live with the family – and was removed for severe abuse and neglect. Mom lost parental rights……..as she had previously lost her rights to several other children.

      There are also SUCCESS STORIES – young women that decide this is NOT how they wanted to live (one young lady was in prison for passing drugs to another person who died from the tainted drugs) and has since gone on to live a GOOD and LOVING LIFE AS A MOM and now a Grandma. She has stayed out of trouble (except for one incident of driving under the influence) and is a respected member in the community and in her church. She is an exception.
      In the Men’s Prison there is one fellow that comes to mind. He received a call that a female friend of his had little time left due to her cancer – she had a 12 year-old-son. This fellow took the young man in after he was released and raised, loved and cared for him until the son, too, died of cancer. This fellow likewise succumbed to cancer a few years later – he remained CLEAN and SOBER……after spending 2/3 of his life incarcerated by the age of 33.

      I do believe the work we did as Therapists and Counselors was helpful if even ONE person succeeded….I believe your work as a RN is an opportunity to show care and concern (as was ours) to some of the most unlovable people we meet. Most of them received anger and hate as a way of corporal punishment….I tried to be FIRM, FAIR, & CONSISTENT. That was my contribution for CHOOSING to work there.

  25. Avatar of Natalie Natalie says:

    Yes, you do get special considerations throughout your prison pregnancy. It is also a fact that a high percentage of the women who are incarcerated receive much better care ( ie; diet, medical, parenting classes, childbirth education, etc…) then the expectant mother would normally seek on her own if not incarcerated. Is it always pleasant? No, prison is not pleasant. Which is why it’s a deterrent. Are Correctional Officers somehow supposed lower security for the public, the inmate, or them-self because they are transporting a pregnant woman? Of course not. In fact security awareness may need to be heightened do to emotional family of the inmate. It is evident to me in this article that this individual has criminal thought processes and does not take accountability for her actions.

    • Avatar of Maryann Maryann says:

      I also agree with your comment — her sense of “ENTITLEMENT” is clear.
      As a Chemical Dependency Counselor and Mental Health Therapist in prison I taught “CRIMINAL THINKING” – a curriculum created between the Department of Corrections in Minnesota and the Hazelden Foundation (Center City, MN). As I had trained through Hazelden and had a GOOD understanding of Criminal Thinking (initially developed by the MN Dept of Corrections at Lino Lake) I was one of a dozen that wrote the books to help offenders learn why they continue to repeat the same behaviors over and over and EXPECT different results. (The curriculum is still available through The Hazelden Foundation – A Chemical Dependency and Mental Health Treatment Facility, known world-wide for its treatment and ability to help individuals remain CLEAN AND SOBER! Located in Center City, MN). Thinking does change with this curriculum (different curriculum’s for MEN, WOMEN, and MENTAL HEALTH) although it does not always stick….some of the best results have come as the result of repeat offenders going through the same programs more than once and learning through their behaviors, while released, where they went back to the “old thinking” and CHOSE their actions based on “ERRONEOUS” decision making.

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