Doula support for incarcerated pregnant women to be piloted in the US

on 15 February 2022

Doula services are being piloted for pregnant women who are incarcerated in the US, with the aim to improve care and support them as they prepare for childbirth and re-entry to their children, families and communities.

The doula care pilot is being launched by First Lady Frances Wolf and the Department of Correctional Facilities (DOC) and Human Services (DHS), in partnership with the Tuttleman Foundation and Genesis Birth Services.

The pilot will begin at SCI Muncy, a correctional facility in Pennsylvania, in its first phase of expanding pregnancy and parenting support to vulnerable women incarcerated in DOC facilities.

First Lady Frances Wolf said: “Pregnancy is an incredibly rewarding period for a mother, but it also can be a physically and emotionally challenging time of change where a mother must monitor not just her own health and wellbeing, but that of her child.

“Going through this critical time while incarcerated separates a woman from her support network and normal care providers, and we must be sure that we are doing all we can to empower mothers and support their individual needs and preferences through this time.”

Doulas will work with pregnant women to prepare them for childbirth, such as creating a birthing plan and support during the postnatal period. They will also support the women in breastfeeding, perinatal depression and anxiety, and more.

DOC Acting Secretary, George Little, said: “Improving outcomes for pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women and their children has the potential to positively impact communities throughout the commonwealth. Doulas bring a unique and valuable skillset and experience that make them a welcome addition to the health care team at SCI Muncy.”

Max Tuttleman of the Tuttleman Foundation said: “When an incarcerated mother gives birth, most of the time, they are alone, scared, and without any support or family by their side. Doulas offer that crucial support to families and individuals. Birth is a highly traumatic, emotionally charged time in itself and having an expert there to advise, support, and hold one’s hand is immeasurably helpful. 

“Incarcerated mothers deserve better and we are grateful to our partners that helped us make this pilot possible.”

More information about the doula care pilot can be found here.