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Pregnancy can be joyous, expectant, stressful, happy, or scary, or all of the above. Being pregnant in prison can be downright terrifying.
Statistics show that 4 to 7 percent of women entering prison are pregnant and a full 85 percent of incarcerated women are mothers. So what happens if you give birth in jail?
One of the most important factors in a healthy birth and a healthy baby is receiving proper medical care before the birth. Some states are beginning to offer screening and treatment for high-risk pregnancies and accommodations for pregnant prisoners. Expecting mothers should take advantage of any available additional medical care as well as proper nutritional and dietary allowances, drug treatments, and HIV testing.
It's a practice loudly criticized by doctors and human rights advocates, but unfortunately some states still allow the use of restraints when a pregnant prisoner is in labor. However, you should check the law -- if your state prohibits restraints during or after birth, you may be able to take legal action if anyone violates the statute.
In 2013, 8 states had prison nursery programs, designed to allow new mothers to keep their infant children with them inside correctional facilities. These nursery programs are vital in nurturing the bond between mothers and children and can help prevent children from developing attachment disorders in the future.
Every prison determines its own visitation rules. And mothers should take advantage of every visitation opportunity they have -- regular visitation can reduce recidivism in mothers and aid in emotional development of the child. There are even groups that will help organize Mother's Day visits to prisons to make it easier for incarcerated moms to see their children.
Being incarcerated as a mother can be especially difficult. If you are having trouble receiving the proper accommodations or care during or after pregnancy, you may want to contact an experienced criminal attorney near you.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.