Bringing a new life into the world is something extraordinary and emotional. Few things in life that awaken more enthusiasm or is as anticipated. Before the big day arrives you start to buy clothes for the future baby, decorate the room where the baby will sleep and you spend days thinking about what to name it. All these actions are what many mothers claim they do to prepare for the journey that they are about to embark on.
Now imagine discovering that you’re about to be a mother, but instead of being surrounded by loved ones, you’re in prison. Although it may seem like an unimaginable situation, the reality is that more women than you realize have had to deal with it.
Giving birth in a prison is something totally unknown to many people. Even if the prisons try to accommodate to their prisoners, there are many aspects that seem inhuman.
Below we will show you the reality experienced by pregnant women behind bars:
1 – It is more common than you think
It is estimated that between 6 and 10 percent of incarcerated women are pregnant. This means that, in the United States alone, approximately 1,400 women yearly will give birth while they are incarcerated. Unfortunately for the baby, being born in a prison without a doubt will most likely impact them for the rest of their life.
2 – Some don’t realize that they are pregnant when they enter
The majority of women do not even realize they are pregnant until they are in quite an advanced state. All women know that if you’re under a lot of stress, it is common for the menstrual cycle to go to hell. Being imprisoned is a perfect example of a situation of high stress so that among women, the irregularities in the period is something very common.
3 – There is a unit specifically for pregnant women
What many people do not know is that there are units for pregnant women in many prisons. By bringing together in the same unit women who are going to give birth, it creates a sort of connection between moms that has proven to be positive.
4 – Mothers spend only 24 hours with their baby after birth
For a mother to have her baby growing inside her for 9 months without a doubt creates a bond unlike any other thing in the world. The connection shared between a mother and child is instant and incredibly special.
That is why it is so hard to accept that the child is taken away 24 hours after its birth. Many inmates who have gone through this experience say that it is the most painful part of the whole process. It is clear why.
5 – Have to wear shackles during appointments with the doctor
Once it is confirmed that an inmate is pregnant, the doctors of the prison will make tests and scheduled appointments with a gynecologist to ensure the well-being of the baby. For many women, the appointments with the gynecologist can be stressful, so imagine having to go through that in jail and in shackles.
This makes the experience even more frightening for all involved, especially for the mother. It is even possible that this extra amount of stress is harmful to the baby.
6 – The date of birth is a mystery
The date of the birth of a baby is always somewhat diffuse, as it is an estimate that may be incorrect. However, there is a lot more uncertainty when the pregnancy occurs in the prison.
Prisoners and their families are almost never told when the due date is, even if their plan is to do a c-section. Whatever the case, the mother alone will be informed the day that it will happen.
Apparently, this is done to prevent the women from having someone on the outside to help them escape.
7 – Mothers generally lose the baby at three years
Very few prisons have programs of child care facilities in prison to enable mothers to stay with their children after their birth. In some states, like Washington, the children can stay in prison with their mothers until the age of three.
Sadly, the majority of children with incarcerated mothers end up with a relative or in an orphanage. Although it is better for the child to go with a family member, many times there is no member that can care for the child.
8 – Inmates give birth in solitude
It is said that the moment of giving birth is an experience that is both terrifying and incredible. Usually, it is a roller coaster of emotions that you spend in the company of people you love the most. Unfortunately, inmates may not enjoy this privilege.
Although there are guards watching the prisoners at all hours, giving birth in prison is a lonely experience. Yes, there are guards and doctors with you, but there is no family or friends. In many cases, the families are only informed of the birth of the baby after the mother has returned from the hospital.
That is why an event that should be so happy, ends up becoming one of the saddest days for moms.
9 – Are handcuffed during and after childbirth
Giving birth in jail is a very traumatic experience for a variety of reasons, and this is perhaps one of the main. This has been a topic of discussion quite recurrent among activists who argue that handcuffing a woman during childbirth is a violation of constitutional rights.
If a mother is not violent and has never been violent, is it necessary to have her chained during the birth?
10 – Is more likely to suffer from postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect all women after giving birth. However, it is a possibility much more real to the mothers who do it behind bars.
For inmates who have just given birth, there is a feeling of isolation and separation, which, in combination with the physical care deficient during the entire pregnancy, leads to the majority of mothers in this situation to suffer later.
Postpartum depression is something that should be dealt with at a professional level. Given that there is a need for medical treatment, and mental treatment is limited in the prison, these women often suffer for a long time.