McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Should jails be offering better family planning services?

Published: August 11, 2016
Jessica Liauw
Jessica Liauw, a senior resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Offering family planning services to women in jail may help prevent unintended pregnancy either during or after incarceration, according to a study from McMaster University.

The study has found that women in correctional institutions are twice as likely as other women to have had an unintended pregnancy and more than three times as likely to not be using reliable contraception.

Researchers found that 84 per cent of women in jail reportedly had an unplanned pregnancy, compared to 40 per cent of all women. Their survey also found that only 20 per cent of incarcerated women are using reliable contraception, compared to 65 per cent of similar women in the general population.

Jessica Liauw, a senior resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, is principal author of the study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada.

“There are no national nor provincial policies about offering contraceptive services in Canadian correctional facilities,” she said. “But it’s clear that offering family planning services during and after incarceration may improve the health of individuals.”

She added that other research has found that unintended pregnancy is associated with a significant burden of increased maternal illness, worse child outcomes and excess medical costs.

“Improving access to contraception for this population of women will require a multi-faceted approach, which should include access to contraception and education and counseling regarding family planning. These services should be accessible both within correctional facilities and after release,” she said.

The study involved 85 women in custody at Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ontario. The study was funded through a resident grant from the Regional Medical Associates of Hamilton.

 

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