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Womens Health (Lond)




BACKGROUND: Pregnant individuals in incarcerated settings have unique healthcare needs. Rates of mental health, infectious diseases, and chronic disease are higher among nonpregnant incarcerated women compared with those who are not, but the prevalence of these conditions among pregnant people in custody has not been documented.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study is to describe the prevalence of metabolic, infectious, and mental health conditions in pregnant people to identify the medical needs of high-risk pregnancies in US state prisons and local jails.

STUDY DESIGN: This was a prospective epidemiologic surveillance of a convenience sample of state prisons (n = 20) and local jails (n = 3).

METHODS: We used purposive and snowball sampling to recruit a national sample of prisons and jails of a range of sizes and geographies. Reporters submitted to our study database monthly data on selected pregnancy comorbidities for 6 months between 2016 and 2017. Screening, diagnosis, and tracking of these conditions are derived from each facility's medical record and health care delivery systems.

RESULTS: Of the 445 newly admitted pregnant people in prisons and 243 in jails, the most prevalent conditions were mental health conditions and hepatitis C. Specifically, 34.1% (n = 152) in prison and 23.5% (n = 57) in jail had a substance use disorder, and 27.4% (n = 122) of those in prison and 17.7% (n = 43) in jail had a psychiatric diagnosis. Finally, 20.2% (n = 91) in prison and 6.6% (n = 16) in jail had hepatitis C.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that chronic medical and mental health conditions are prevalent among pregnant people in US prisons and jails. However, significant variability in the reported number of cases of these conditions from state to state and between facility types implies a lack of or inadequate screening practices. These data indicate the need for comprehensive screening and appropriate care for the complex needs of pregnant incarcerated people.


© The Author(s) 2024

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License