Childbirth can be a frightening experience, but for women in the prison system, giving birth can be traumatic.

North Carolina is trying to make amends by ending its harsh practice of restraining women during childbirth. The News & Observer reports that the new policy signed this week specifies that hand or leg cuffs cannot be used while the mother is in labor.

The change comes after years of urging from activists and doctors.

Vice has a harrowing story of a woman who miscarried at five months and was forced to sit with her stillborn baby between her legs as she was shackled to her bed. This is an increasing concern as the female prison populations booms, jumping 700 percent from 1980 to 2014.

This is a major issue facing black and Latina women since they are more likely to be jailed and more susceptible to complications during their pregnancy, during or after childbirth.

The practice isn’t isolated to one part of the country either. There are similar horrifying stories about women being shackled during and after childbirth in states like Wisconsin, where three women are suing their correctional facility for restraining them to a bed before, during and after they gave birth.

More than half of U.S. states have no rules regulating the use of restraints on inmates during labor. Last month, the Hartford Courant reported an inmate gave birth in her jail cell, without any medical assistance. The guards knew of her condition, and the prison is investigating the situation.

This move restores human dignity to women during childbirth and ensures that pregnant women in jail can still receive the care they need before and after childbirth. Shackling makes the process more humiliating and physically uncomfortable. As if childbirth wasn’t difficult enough, these conditions can make the process feel inhumane.

Many doulas work with pregnant women. This group focuses on non-binary, queer and gender non-conforming families.

Rainbow Doula DC is a queer-specific doula collective in Washington, D.C.

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