Roughly 6 to 10% of inmates are pregnant. These pregnancies should be considered high risk because of additional health threats related to miscarriage, mental instability, and a lack of health resources. The miscarriage rate for women in prison is approximately 30%, due to drug abuse and poor maternal health (Taylor, 2002). The mental health of a pregnant inmate should also be considered. Studies have shown that 64% of women who are pregnant during incarceration have a history of mental illness (Taylor).
Recommended national standards have been established for pregnancy-related health care in correctional settings by the National Commission of Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) and the American Public Health Association (APHA). To learn more, visit the websites provided in the resources section. These organizations have published standards for prenatal medical examinations, prenatal laboratory tests (including HIV), advising inmates on safe levels of physical activity, education on proper nutrition, documenting postnatal care, written agreement with community health facilities for delivery, access to family planning, training for healthcare providers in prisons on pregnancy, identification and referral of high-risk pregnancy, prohibition of shackling during pregnancy, and standing arrangements for deliveries that allow mother and infant time together (American Civil Liberties Union, 2008).
Despite these recommendations, many jurisdictions follow their own specialized procedures or they do not have any pregnancy-related standards. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (American Civil Liberties Union, 2008), pregnancy-specific laws could only be identified for 35 out of 51 jurisdictions in the U.S. and the District of Columbia. The ACLU also found that out of those 35 jurisdictions, only eight mention that medical examinations should be included as a component of prenatal care, four mention HIV testing, nineteen mention prenatal nutritional counseling, seven require an agreement with a facility for the delivery, and only three restrict the use of restraints during labor and delivery. To access a state-by-state department of corrections directory of information, resources and policies, visit: http://www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/gen/pregnancycareinprison.html