Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1260–1266 | Cite as

An Examination of Care Practices of Pregnant Women Incarcerated in Jail Facilities in the United States

  • C. M. Kelsey
  • Nickole Medel
  • Carson Mullins
  • Danielle DallaireEmail author
  • Catherine Forestell



The number of incarcerated women in the United States has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years. An estimated 6–10% of these women are pregnant at intake. Previous studies on the health needs and care of pregnant incarcerated women have focused mainly on prison settings. Therefore, we examined the pregnancy-related accommodations and health care provided for regional jail populations.


The present study is a quantitative survey (administered through phone or email to employees of predominately jail medical facilities) of common practices and policies employed across 53 jail facilities in the United States as a function of geographic region (North vs. South; West vs. Central vs. East). We examined provision of pregnancy screening, special diets, and drug rehabilitation and prohibition of shackling.


Strikingly, across all aspects of the care of pregnant incarcerated women there are areas to be improved upon. Notably, only 37.7% of facilities pregnancy test all women upon entry, 45.7% put opioid addicted women through withdrawal protocol, and 56.7% of facilities use restraints on women hours after having a baby.


In this first study to examine practices in regional jails nationwide, we found evidence that standards of care guidelines to improve health and well-being of pregnant incarcerated women, set by agencies such as American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, are not being followed in many facilities. Because not following these guidelines could pose major health risks to the mother and developing fetus, better policies, better enforcement of policies, and better common practices are needed to improve the health and welfare of pregnant incarcerated women.


Incarcerated pregnant women Health care Restraints Shackles And withdrawal 



This article was funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Grant No. P3020450).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Kelsey
    • 1
  • Nickole Medel
    • 2
  • Carson Mullins
    • 2
  • Danielle Dallaire
    • 2
    Email author
  • Catherine Forestell
    • 2
  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe College of William and MaryWilliamsburgUSA

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