Personal Views

How could I breast feed with a man in the room?

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 27 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:256
  1. Beverley A Lawrence Beech

    As honorary chair of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services I have a heavy postbag of letters from women asking for help. In early December I received a letter from Annette, an inmate of Holloway women's prison: “Every other day a girl pregnant is taken to the hospital in handcuffs; I have spoken to seven women who have had children, all have been made to give birth in chains with male officers present but behind a screen; when your child has been born, you have only three hours and then you're brought back to prison, at no time are these chains removed, only on the last stage of birth; I am terrified of what I have to go through. I can't sleep at night as I have terrible nightmares, I wake up and cry myself back to sleep.” I was so concerned I offered to visit her.

    When we met she told me she had already been to the Whittington Hospital three times. The thought of going again terrified her. On one visit the officers used category A shackles: these were heavy and normally reserved for very dangerous male prisoners. They hurt and bruised her wrists. She begged the guards to remove them but they refused. The hero of this story is an unknown ambulanceman, who on one visit refused to drive her anywhere with the shackles on—they had to be removed.

    One admission had been for premature labour. After she had spent a night shackled to the bed the labour stopped and she returned to the prison. She cried and said: “I don't know how I …

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