Birth Companions & Maternity Health


Concerns about prisons and maternal health provision have a long history. Occasionally the routine horrors such as women shackled while giving birth, or ambulances not called for women miscarrying permeate the public consciousness. In 1996 Channel 4 had secret cameras at the Wittington Hospital, which showed a woman only known as Annette shackled to a warden hours after birth, it lead to questions in parliament, which can be found here 

 After which followed a high profile campaign to end the use of handcuffs on female prisoners during labour. "Sheila Kitzinger, the well known childbirth sociologist, wrote an article about women prisoners giving birth without support from friends or family.

Sheila’s article inspired a small group of London-based antenatal teachers to set up the ‘Holloway Doula Group’. The group expanded to become Birth Companions and are now a registered charity with a team of staff and volunteers. 

Their services have expanded to meet the various needs As well as providing support during birth, they now work with women during pregnancy and in the postnatal period. Working in HMP Holloway for 20 years until its closure in 2016. They now run a weekly groups for pregnant women and new mothers in Bronzefield and Peterborough Prisons." (taken from Background to Birth Companions)  

Birth Companions also run community services located on the Holloway Road, at The Hub run by Hibiscus (see previous post) They have recently launched The Birth Charter for Women in Prison in England and Wales.  It is a set of recommendations for the care of pregnant women and new mothers in prison developed in consultation with our service users and with guidance from the Royal College of Midwives and UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative