Pregnancy Prevalence and Outcomes in U.S. Jails

Obstet Gynecol. 2020 May;135(5):1177-1183. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003834.


Objective: To describe the number of admissions of pregnant people to U.S. jails and the outcomes of pregnancies that end in custody.

Methods: We prospectively collected pregnancy data from six U.S. jails, including the five largest jails, on a monthly basis for 12 months. Jails reported de-identified, aggregate numbers of pregnant people admitted, births, preterm births, cesarean deliveries, miscarriages, induced abortions, ectopic pregnancies, and maternal and newborn deaths.

Results: There were 1,622 admissions of pregnant people in 12 months in the selected jails. The highest 1-day count of pregnant people at a single jail was 65. The majority of these admissions involved the release of a pregnant person. Of the 224 pregnancies that ended in jail, 144 (64%) were live births, 41 (18%) were miscarriages, 33 (15%) were induced abortions, and four were ectopic (1.8%). One third of the births were cesarean deliveries and 8% were preterm. There were two stillbirths, one newborn death, and no maternal deaths.

Conclusion: About 3% of admissions of females to U.S. jails are of pregnant people; extrapolating study results to national female jail admission rates suggests nearly 55,000 pregnancy admissions in 1 year. It is feasible to track pregnancy statistics about this overlooked group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy, Ectopic / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prisons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology