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Jailed women in UK five times more likely to suffer stillbirths, data shows

Women in prison are five times more likely to have a stillbirth and twice as likely to give birth to a premature baby that needs special care, new data collected by the Observer shows.

Following two baby deaths in prisons since 2019 there have been increasing concerns about safety for pregnant women and their babies.

Figures obtained through freedom of information requests made to 11 NHS trusts serving women’s prisons in England show 28% of the babies born to women serving a custodial sentence between 2015 and 2019 were admitted to a neonatal unit afterwards – double the national figure, according to data from the National Neonatal Research Database.

The findings come as the House of Lords prepares to vote this week on proposed changes to bail and sentencing laws that would improve the rights of pregnant women and mothers facing criminal charges.

A report published in September examined the circumstances of a baby’s death at Bronzefield prison in Surrey where an 18-year-old was left to give birth alone in her cell. 

When Anita rang her cell bell at 5.30am when she went into labour the guards said they would send somebody. It was only during the morning rounds at 7.30am that a nurse was called. She was transferred to hospital at 10.30am. Anita said: “Despite being in active labour the guards would not remove my handcuffs and ignored me when I asked them to call the baby’s father and my mum – who were eventually contacted by a doctor.”

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Source: The Guardian, 5 December 2021


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