1. Medical Consequences

The wrongs of shackling women in labor go far beyond discomfort. Shackling has documented, harmful medical consequences on women at all stages of labor. These consequences include the woman's increased risk of falling and being unable to break such a fall while traveling to the hospital and being unable to move, stretch, or change positions while delivering. This restricted movement, which Nelson described in her testimony, is not only painful for the woman, but the resulting stress on the woman's body may decrease the flow of oxygen to the fetus, causing irreparable damage.

Restraints also hinder the physicians' ability to care for the woman, who must wait for such restrains to be removed before they can check dilation (as in Nelson's case) or perform a caesarean section. Even a five-minute delay in cesarean procedure can cause irreparable brain damage to the baby.

After delivery, shackles can prevent the mother from breastfeeding her child or from walking--an activity recommended by doctors to recover after a birth.

2. Social Consequences

Adding insult to injury is the indignity of bearing a child in chains. As Vainik so aptly puts it, [b] eing shackled while giving birth sends a message to the inmate that her body--and her baby--are undeserving of the joy that normally accompanies pregnancy. Rather, both mother and baby are forcefully made aware that they are subjects of social contempt. This understanding of the shackling of pregnant inmates as ultimately a message of disregard for the woman's well-being echoes Robert's description of Black women's childbearing in slavery as largely a product of oppression rather than an expression of self-definition and personhood.