Sandra Valdez looks through bars at Unidad Prison in Los Homos, Argentina, Dec. 7, 2012. Valdez was pregnant with her daughter, Nicole (shown), when she was sentenced to two years in prison for selling drugs. Reuters

Five pregnant women incarcerated in Western Pennsylvania have sued after being placed in solitary confinement. The federal lawsuit, filed Monday, alleged that the women in Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh were punished for minor, nonviolent infractions and held for up to 22 days each.

"Anecdotally, they're using [solitary confinement] as the first and last resort for discipline or to express disappointment," the lead attorney in the lawsuit, Bret Grote, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

One woman stated she had been placed in solitary confinement for possessing a book containing pictures and envelopes. Another said she was confined for having three pairs of shoes instead of the allowed two. None of the infractions were violent, the Gazette reported.

The lawsuit alleged cruel and unusual punishment and due process violations and demanded access to adequate prenatal care as well as a complete end to solitary confinement for pregnant women. It also asked for fair hearings before any prisoner can be placed in confinement.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, 29-year-old, Mersiha Tuzlic, filed a complaint during her confinement, begging for help and citing her claustrophobia and high-risk pregnancy. Jail officials responded by saying, "If this is a problem, don't come to jail," according to the Gazette.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court jointly by the Abolitionist Law Center, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Program, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Reedsmith attorney David Fawcett.

Around 200,000 women were behind bars in the U.S. and thousands of them are pregnant, according to the ACLU, which has represented pregnant inmates in the past. The organization settled with Jackson County, Missouri, in May 2016 after suing on behalf of a pregnant inmate who was "shackled, chained and transported by a van almost 200 miles across the state while she was in labor." The ACLU of Missouri also represented a pregnant woman who lost her baby after jail officials denied her medical attention and drove her to a faraway facility while she was in premature labor.

Allegheny County Jail, the subject of the current solitary confinement lawsuit, has also been sued by the daughter of a mentally ill man who was found dead in the jail in December 2014.