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Inmate who didn’t know she was pregnant lost baby after giving birth behind bars

A woman who tragically lost her baby after giving birth while behind bars says that ‘nobody came over to look’ at her during the labour.

Louise Powell, 31, believes that ‘more could have been done’ to help her after she went into labour while in prison unexpectedly.

Louise was serving in HMP Styal, Cheshire, in June 2020, when the events leading up to her stillbirth occurred, reports Liverpool Echo.

In her first interview with Newsnight this week, Louise stated that she didn’t know she was pregnant.

Louise was locked up with an eight-month sentence after admitting to common assault, criminal damage and using threatening words or behaviour.

She was asked on arrival if she was pregnant but she believed she was not so she said there was no chance.

Louise says she can’t recall having consensual, penetrative sex in the months leading up to her sentence, and believed there was no chance she could be pregnant because she is gay.

The police later opened an investigation into a suspected assault, but Louise decided not to press charges.

Louise’s solicitor says prison staff were aware that she had no had a period for four to five months but no follow-up questions were asked.

On June 18, 2020, at around 5pm, Louise says she began complaining of a lot of pain.

By 6pm, it was becoming extreme, and just before 7pm, she says her cellmate informed prison officers that Louise was bleeding, with severe cramps, and she had not had a period in months.

An officer came to see her and said Louise looked six months pregnant.

Newsnight reported that it understand that on two occasions before 8pm that night, the officer contacted the on-site healthcare team about Louise’s condition, raising concerns about pregnancy.

Louise says no medical professional came to see her. By 8pm, Louise says she went to prison staff in the office, begging for an ambulance.

Louise said: “I was in agony, I was crying, I was bent over. To me, I was dying. I said to [the prison officer], I need an ambulance. She told me to go back upstairs and lie down on the bed, I’ll call over to the healthcare team again… I couldn’t make it to my bed.

“I got to the stairs, collapsed in pain. I got to the top of the stairs, collapsed again. Obviously these were contractions, coming on quicker.”

Just after 8pm, Newsnight was told, the officer radioed healthcare a third time.

After 9pm – more than two hours after it’s claimed staff were alerted – Louise says she asked her cellmate to press the emergency bell in their cell.

Only then did medical help arrive, Louise says: “When the baby was already out, half out, the first nurse that I’d seen, the only nurse that I’d seen that day – she got me on the floor to try and get the rest of the baby out. I needed to stand up because the baby was still stuck by her head, she was breech.”

Louise recalls that when her baby was born, she was taken away by medical staff, and Louise was told she had had a baby girl.

Later, when she arrived in hospital, Louise says she learned the baby didn’t survive.

Louise told Newsnight: “I don’t blame anyone for not knowing I was pregnant, because I didn’t at the time. But the fact that nobody came over to look at me, the fact that nobody took me over to see any healthcare … acute abdominal pain could have been anything.

“To me, I remember saying to them I think I’m dying. I feel like I’m dying. I need an ambulance. So I feel like a lot more could have been done.

“Brooke could have been here. Her skin was perfect. She was a perfect baby. She died due to error. Clearly they can’t look after people. They don’t take people’s feelings into consideration. You’re a number, not a person. She should be here with me.

“It’s hard to look back and know she’s not with me, and that’s been taken away from me, through no choice of my own. I just never got listened to.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “This was a deeply sad and distressing case and our thoughts remain with everyone affected.

“While our view remains that custody should be the last resort for most women, we have made significant improvements to support female offenders and our new prison places will give them greater access to education, healthcare and employment – helping them to turn their backs on crime.

“We await the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s report and will respond accordingly to improve the care for pregnant women and mothers in prison.”

A spokesperson from Spectrum Community Health CIC said: “We extend our deepest condolences to Ms. Powell for the distress and sad loss that she has experienced.

“Spectrum Community Health CIC has fully co-operated with the independent investigation into this case which was carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

“As the investigation report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has yet to be published, we are unable to provide any further comment.”

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