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Prisoners: Pregnancy

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 2766, tabled on 21 October 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many women were pregnant when entering prison in each year since 2010.

Answered on

31 October 2019

We are currently carrying out a fundamental review of our Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) policy, as part of which, we are looking at improving the information and data available in relation to pregnancy and births. This is a complex area and there are sensitive issues relating to medical information and data protection which must be taken into account, but we are looking closely at this issue to drive improvements in our support for pregnant women across the estate.

In the interim, we have worked to provide a total figure for the number of pregnant women across the Women’s Estate, based on a bespoke data collection exercise. We can inform you that the total number of women who declared they were pregnant was 47, as at 15:00hrs on Monday 28 October 2019. This represents less than 2 per cent of the population, which stood at 3,808 at the time of the exercise.

We know that it is extremely rare for a woman to give birth in prison – because every step is taken to get them to hospital – but those unique cases are invariably down to the unpredictability of labour.

The number of women who give birth in prison is not collected centrally and as there is no central data field to record this data, prisons would be required to conduct a manual search of their records for all women who have been taken into custody over a specific period. Although the prison population sits at around 3,800, this does not account for the high churn in prison numbers and therefore the number of records to be searched would be much higher. However, an internal data collection exercise conducted in 2018 indicated that prisons reported fewer than 5 births in prison in the past any one year.

The remaining information you have requested is not currently held centrally and could only be obtained at a disproportionate cost.

All pregnant women are seen by a professional midwife at least fortnightly or more frequently if required. Healthcare in prisons is provided by specially trained medics and nurses. Medical emergencies are dealt with by 999 calls and prisoners have access to an emergency bell to alert staff at night. Women in prison have access to the same range of services as they would in the community.

Policy Guidance adjoining the Women’s Policy Framework 2018 contains comprehensive operational guidance on perinatal support to women in custody. To accompany the policy, a training course for managing pregnant women in custody and MBUs is available to prison staff supporting pregnant women, or women with children in MBUs.