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Hard Labor: A Doula Offers a Little Comfort for a Birth Behind Bars
NIC News & Updates


This feature article from The Marshall Project describes the Minnesota Prison Doula Project and the experiences of pregnant women giving birth in prison. Hard Labor: A Doula Offers a Little Comfort for a Birth Behind Bars tells the story of Brittany Seaver and her doula (birthing coach) during the 2011 delivery of her daughter from the Minnesota Shakopee facility.Doula

From the article:

  • At any given time, of the roughly 98,000 female inmates in state institutions, an estimated 1 in 25 reported that they were pregnant when admitted.
  • A handful of correctional facilities across the country, in places such as California, Massachusetts, and Florida, have allowed the use of doulas, but Minnesota is the only place to implement the policy statewide.
  • Brittany Seaver had two other children, but during this delivery, a few months into a five-year sentence for burglary in Minnesota's only correctional facility for women, she was both intensely watched and eerily alone. She repeatedly asked to see her prison-appointed doula, Rae Baker, who is authorized to provide physical and emotional support — but no medical help — to expectant mothers. Baker was allowed in the hospital room during the final stages of delivery.
  • Rae Baker, and every doula she works with, will tell you that the most painful part of any inmate birth isn’t the actual process of delivering the baby. It’s what happens two days later. What they call “the separation.” The Minnesota Department of Corrections prohibits female inmates from spending more than two days with their newborns after delivery.
  • Ten states have prison nursery programs in certain facilities that allow incarcerated mothers to stay with their babies for a few months. In Washington state, that period extends to nearly three years. In New York, if an inmate is granted permission to be housed in a facility with a nursery, she can stay with her child for up to a year.

Read the full article


This announcement is available at NIC's Gender-Responsive News for Women and Girls.  Feel free to forward to friends and colleagues.  Subscribe to the newsletter at

For additional resources on Justice-Involved Women go to NIC’s Women Offenders.

Posted Tue, Apr 21 2015 6:47 AM by Susan Powell


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