Doula Labor Support for Incarcerated Pregnant Women

Carole A. Schroeder, Univ. of Washington School of Nursing

Women of childbearing age are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. incarcerated population, with more than 100,000 women incarcerated in local jails on any given day; 10% are pregnant at the time of arrest. For those women who deliver while in custody, labor and birth are often compromised by the constraints of the detention system. Incarcerated women in labor may be shackled to the bed, are not permitted to have visitors or phone calls, nor leave the hospital room during labor or birth. These constraints may contribute to negative birth experiences, poor maternal infant bonding, and resultant increased costs. Results of 14 randomized, controlled studies suggest that doula support (trained labor support) has a positive effect on birth outcomes, patient satisfaction, and maternal-infant bonding, particularly for women who are economically deprived. The purpose of this project was to implement and evaluate a program that supports incarcerated pregnant women with doulas during labor and birth. Eighteen incarcerated women delivered during the project with doula support. Results of the qualitative and quantitative analysis demonstrate high feasibility and low project costs, and high levels of patient, officer, doula, and provider satisfaction.

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Updated 05/20/2006