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Caring for perinatal women in prison: How the launch of the Birth Charter will help women and staff

02 June 2016
6 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 6

It is estimated that around 600 women receive antenatal care, and more than 100 babies are born to women in prison in England and Wales each year. Women in prison are one of society's most disadvantaged groups, suffering severe health and social inequalities. Yet despite several pieces of national and international legislation protecting their health and wellbeing, many do not get the care and support to which they and their babies are entitled. Pregnant women, in particular, can suffer in a system that often struggles to meet their basic needs.

At Birth Companions, we provide practical and emotional support to pregnant women and new mothers in prison, on release from prison, and those serving community-based sentences. In May 2016, we launched our Birth Charter (Box 1), a comprehensive set of recommendations on aspects ranging from antenatal care and access to birthing partners to breastfeeding, family visits and counselling. We hope the Birth Charter will inform the Government's ongoing review of the treatment of these vulnerable women and their babies, and improve current practice across the country's prison service.

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