CQUniversity students to work with pregnant inmates

Published:20 April 2017

CQUniversity midwifery students will work with inmates to help improve pregnancy and birth experiences for pregnant women in prison

CQUniversity in conjunction with the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre (TWCC) and Queensland Health (QH) will see midwifery students and pregnant inmates work together to improve pregnancy and birth experiences.

The program was launched in Townsville last week and aims to enhance the quality of the pregnancy and birth experience for women who are incarcerated at the time, and to extend the learning experiences, and thereby expand the professional understanding of students studying a Bachelor of Midwifery at CQUniversity.

Project team lead and CQUniversity Senior Lecturer Dr Adele Baldwin has been working with TWCC and QH for some months to bring the project to fruition and said she was thrilled to finally see it come to life.

“Pregnancy and birth experiences underpin the world view for all women and can be heavily influenced by social and cultural expectations,” Dr Baldwin explains.
“The current woman-centred focus for maternity care promotes the importance of social support as determined by the woman. Unfortunately, pregnant women can be found guilty of crime and can therefore be sentenced to periods of detention during their pregnancy. In some cases, these women remain in correctional facilities for the duration of their pregnancy and the postnatal period, leaving the facility only for antenatal appointments and to birth. Further, due to the strict protocols surrounding incarceration, pregnant women are not able to rely on the support of their partner, family or friends during the antenatal, birth or postpartum period,” she said.

Dr Baldwin said students would have the opportunity to attend antenatal appointments with the women, and visits would take the form of group discussions, individual discussions and provide the forum for ad hoc antenatal education sessions.

“In addition to enhancing the student-woman relationship, this offers the opportunity for women to increase their understanding of mothering and for the students to plan and deliver antenatal education. The outcome from these sessions, in addition to achieving the stated learning outcomes, is positive contribution to better maternal and neonatal well-being.”

Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre Deputy General Manager Kristine Winter said the partnership forged with CQUni and Queensland Health was of great benefit to the women of TWCC.

“Many women are not from the Townsville area and as such, rarely receive visits from family,” Ms Winter said.

“Having access to this program not only facilitates specialised medical involvement to ensure the good health of them and their baby, but it also provides social support when they are so far from home. The program is all about improving outcomes for the baby and to do that, we need to ensure the care provided prior to, during and after birthing is positive.”

CQUniversity midwifery students and academics joined representatives from TWCC and QH to officially launch the project at the TWCC.

“There are women at the TWCC who are ready to benefit from this program and we are ready to start supporting them,” Dr Baldwin said.

With an average of at least 5-10 pregnant women in custody at any given time, the partnership comes as a much-needed service to the incarcerated women.

“We met with prisoners last week and the general feedback was that they definitely wanted to participate as they can see it will be an excellent means to obtain information, alleviate anxieties, and receive support during their pregnancy,” Ms Winter said.

If successful, CQUniversity, which was this year named one of the world's best Young Universities by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, will look to work with relevant Governments and organisations at implementing this program across its national footprint.