Mental health issues among pregnant women in correctional facilities: a systematic review

Women Health. 2014;54(8):816-42. doi: 10.1080/03630242.2014.932894.


Incarceration-induced stress makes pregnant women in correctional facilities a high-risk group for mental health problems, resulting in adverse maternal and fetal outcomes. A systematic review was conducted to examine the prevalence and correlates of mental health issues among pregnant inmates. Databases searched included PubMed, Medline, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO, National Criminal Justice Reference System, Social Work Abstracts, Cochrane and Campbell libraries, which were searched for studies published in English from 1950 till July 2013. Eleven studies were included of pregnant women in correctional facilities and addressed at least one mental illness. Quality score was assigned to these eligible articles. Due to heterogeneity, a narrative review was performed. All of the studies were conducted in the United States, with quality scores ranging from 7 to 10 out of 10. Only one of these studies used mixed methods, the rest were quantitative. Tobacco use among pregnant inmates exceeded 50%, with some studies reporting as high as 84%. Alcohol use was common; 36% of the inmates used illicit drugs in one study. Depression and anxiety levels were high-some studies reported depression among 80% of inmates. Findings suggest that mental health among pregnant prisoners is a huge concern that has not been adequately addressed.

Keywords: correctional; incarceration; mental health; pregnant; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Health
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners*
  • Prisons*
  • United States / epidemiology