Why We Do This
Women who give birth behind bars are separated from their babies soon after birth, denying the baby bonding and breastfeeding time with his mother and increasing societal and health care costs in the short and long term. Incarcerated pregnant women are at higher risk for mental and physical health concerns, and these stressors can weigh heavily on fetal health and well being.
The effects of stress and anxiety during pregnancy are well-documented. Chronic maternal stress in the prenatal period is associated with low birth weights, pre-term birth, lower apgar scores, smaller head circumference, a more difficult labor and delivery, postpartum depression, and neuroendocrine dysregulation in the newborn.
Childbirth education and connection through group support lowers fear and stress and promotes inner strength and bonding with the unborn baby. Doula support during birth and during the eventual separation of mother and baby promotes and preserves bonding and transition and reduces immediate and long-term trauma effects on an already traumatized population. It has been reported that between 75% and 90% of incarcerated females have experienced trauma prior to being locked up.
Similar programs in other states have shown marked decreases in cesearean rates and postpartum depression, increased health of babies and mothers, and increased bonding between the mother-infant pair when imprisoned mothers are accompanied through pregnancy, birth, and separation by a doula. These positive outcomes lower the overall maternity and child care costs for taxpayers.
In 2016, a published review of multiple evaluations of perinatal programs in prison indicated lower recidivism rates when pregnant mothers receive prenatal, birth, and postpartum services, including no separation between mother and baby.
*Note - Babies are not kept with mothers in Alabama's system, but it is the long term vision of our work to help develop a community-based alternative for pregnant, incarcerated people where babies and mothers are not separated.
We are a program of Ostara Initiative, Inc. You can find out more about our parent organization by clicking on the button.