University of Hertfordshire

Transition to motherhood and becoming a child-less mother in prison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMothers Accused and Abused
Subtitle of host publicationAddressing Complex Psychological Needs
EditorsAngela Foster
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter7
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781315105550
ISBN (Print)9781138095847
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019

Abstract

There are six mother and baby units (MBU) in UK prisons and 64 places for mothers and babies. 50 per cent of babies will remain with their mothers after birth and the remaining 50 per cent will be cared for by family members or foster carers. This chapter will explore the experience of women who have their babies remaining with them on an MBU and those who are separated from their babies. Those mothers remaining on an MBU with their babies are expected to bond with and make attachments to their new-born babies in an institutional setting where relationships with other residents on the MBU and staff make for a different family set up than in the community. The woman separating from her baby has specific needs but she will often come back from hospital and disappear back into the system with no acknowledgement of the major event that has just taken place. They can be left with unmet physical needs too which impacts further on their mental health. It can feel like there is no time or space for mourning. Women worry about showing distress as they don’t want to be put on an Assessment, Care in Custody & Teamwork plan (ACCT) which involves regular checks with the aim of preventing suicide and self-harm. For the women concerned this means being woken throughout the night. Discussions around maintaining the bond with a baby and being a mother without being able to provide day-to-day parenting will be explored. The need for compassion and kindness whilst working with women who have complex and difficult needs will be unequivocal whatever the circumstances of the woman becoming a mother.

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