Shocking Report Reveals That Women Are Having To Give Birth In Prison Cells
By Sophie Wilkinson Posted 29 days ago
Well, real life is worse, it seems, as a new report shows that in British prisons, women are being left to give birth in their actual cells.
Dr Laura Abbott, a specialist midwife and senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, undertook research which found that three women have given birth in prison cells in England, without midwives present.
One story, about a woman called Layla - whose real name has been withheld to preserve her anonymity - ‘it was a risky birth,’ Dr Abbott now tells The Guardian, ‘When she was telling me her story, there were red flags for me as a midwife. She was in premature labour - there was another four weeks of the pregnancy to go - and the baby was in the breech position.’
According to the report, Layla had been to the nurse at the prison, because she had lost her mucous plug, and she remembered this had happened previously, just before she went into a very short labour with her first child. Layla tried to explain that she expected she needed to go to hospital too, ‘I was trying to explain this to health care, they were just like “No, don’t worry about it” and I was like “No, really, I know my own body.”’
Later, when telling nurses she was in labour, she ended up with an interaction she described like this: ‘“I’m telling you I am in labour”
“No, you’re not. Here’s some paracetamol and a cup of tea.”’
Ten minutes later, her waters broke, and the nurses were in ‘absolute panic’.
‘I was laid there on my bed, in my cell with a male nurse and a female nurse, not midwifery trained at all trying to put gas and air in my mouth and I’m like “I don’t want anything, I need to feel awake and I need to concentrate.“’
The baby soon arrived, with ‘no ambulance…no paramedics and she came out feet first.’
When Layla was transferred to hospital, she was provided no clothes or nappies for her newborn child.
New guidance for The Prison Service will make it clear that prisoners should have access to 24-hour midwifery advice, and currently, there should be extra training for all staff and care plan for all pregnant prisoners.
Following the release of this report, MP Jess Phillips called for ministers to protect female prisoners forced to give birth in jail. She told PoliticsHome: ‘I’ll wager these women were on short sentences that will achieve nothing in the way of rehabilitation whilst exposing them to hideous trauma that even the most hardline wouldn’t agree with.
‘Giving birth alone without a midwife is something no one should tolerate. The MOJ must immediately undertake a safeguarding review of both women and children in their care and must never let this happen again.’
The Justice Secretary, David Gauke, has yet to respond (you know, Brexit and that), but has previously called for fewer women to face custodial sentences, noting that ‘A lot of female offenders, for example, are themselves victims of crime, quite a high proportion are victims of domestic abuse themselves… a lot of them are non-violent, a lot of them [have] complex mental health issues we need to address.’
If prison doesn’t seem the best place for them, there’s no question; it’s not the place for a newborn child, or for one to enter into the world.
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