Jail incarceration and birth outcomes

Janice F Bell, Frederick J. Zimmerman, Mary Lawrence Cawthon, Colleen E. Huebner, Deborah Ward, Carole A. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


This study examined the relationships between jail incarceration during pregnancy and infant birth weight, preterm birth, and fetal growth restriction. We used multivariate regression analyses to compare outcomes for 496 births to women who were in jail for pan of pregnancy with 4,960 Medicaid-funded births as matched community controls. After adjusting for potential confounding variables, the relationship between jail incarceration and birth outcomes was modified by maternal age. Relative to controls, women incarcerated during pregnancy had progressively higher odds of low birth weight and preterm birth through age 39 years; conversely, jail detainees older than 39 years were less likely than controls to experience low birth weight or preterm birth. For women in jail at all ages, postrelease maternity case management was associated with decreased odds of low birth weight, whereas prenatal care was associated with decreased odds of preterm birth. Local fails are important sites for public health intervention. Efforts to ensure that all pregnant women released from jail have access to enhanced prenatal health services may improve perinatal outcomes for this group of particularly vulnerable women and infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)630-644
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Birth weight
  • Jails
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • Prenatal care utilization
  • Prisoners
  • Prisons
  • Small for gestational age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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