Reproductive Healthcare Experiences of Incarcerated Women: A Qualitative Study [30F]

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INTRODUCTION:The U.S. prison population has reached an all-time high, with women representing the fastest growing sub-population. Recently, national medical organizations recognized inadequate correctional health care as a major problem. Despite this awareness, the U.S. correctional health care system remains fragmented and non-uniform in practice, particularly in women’s healthcare, with poor transitions between incarceration and the community. The purpose of this study was to examine how formerly incarcerated women navigate this system to address their reproductive healthcare needs.METHODS:Adult, English-speaking women with history of incarceration within the last 10 years were interviewed using a semi-structured interview tool. Interviews were analyzed using modified grounded theory and stopped upon thematic saturation. Interview themes were used to create a conceptual framework to describe this fragmentation.RESULTS:21 women completed the study interview. They were on average 43 years old, with 7 periods of incarceration. 80% had children, and 52% were pregnant while incarcerated. Most women described fragmentation of care with inability to consistently access reproductive and prenatal healthcare services. Frequent transitions between institutions exacerbated problems with access. A high prevalence of mental health issues, including high rates of substance use disorder contributed to difficulty accessing needed services. Women suggested better coordination of care could improve their long-term health.CONCLUSION:This study illuminates the persistent reproductive health barriers that face formerly incarcerated women. Programs are needed to address the physical and mental health needs for women transitioning from incarceration back into the community.

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