Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 25: Homemade tools and teaching materials
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This section describes a few tools you can make to help with your work as a midwife.
If you do not have a watch or clock, you can make a simple timer to measure the number of heartbeats or breaths in a minute. None of these timers are as accurate as a clock, but they work fairly well. (When you first make the timer, you will need to use a clock to measure the length of a minute.)
A sand timer consists of a tube of glass closed at both ends, with a narrow neck in the middle. It is partly filled with fine sand. The sand runs from the upper to the lower half in an exact period of time.
Egg timers, or 3-minute sand timers, can be purchased at low cost in some areas. To use one, count the number of heartbeats or breaths for 3 minutes, and then divide by 3 to know the number of heartbeats or breaths a minute. You can also use this timer to tell when contractions are 3 minutes apart.
1-minute sand timer
To make a 1-minute sand timer, follow these steps:
|1. Heat the middle of a glass tube over a Bunsen burner or other small, very hot flame.||2. Stretch the tube to make a thin neck in the middle.||3. Seal one end of the tube by melting it slowly.|
|4. Wash some fine sand to remove the dirt. Dry it in the sun, and sift it through a very fine strainer. Then heat the sand to remove moisture.||5. Put just enough sand in the tube so that it takes exactly 1 minute for all of it to run from one part to the other. Use someone’s watch with a second hand to check this.||6. Seal the other end of the tube.
An easier method is to use a “soft glass” test tube, or a blood collection tube. Make a thin neck in the middle of the tube using a hot flame. You do not need to melt the open end — simply seal it with a cork or rubber stopper. This timer may be less accurate in a moist climate.
Do not be surprised if you have to make a sand timer several times before you get it right. If the sand sticks, find a smoother, finer sand, and be sure it is absolutely dry. Be sure you have the right amount of sand before you seal the tube. Protect the timer by keeping it in a box padded with cotton or cloth. It can break very easily at the neck.
Water timers are easy to make but less accurate than sand timers.
Use a glass or plastic tube. The longer and thinner the tube, the more accurate it will be as a timer.
To form a narrow hole in a glass tube, hold it over a hot flame, then stretch, cool, and break it.
Hold the tube upright and fill it with water exactly to the top.
Using a watch with a second hand, measure how far the water level drops in exactly one minute. Check this a few times, and then mark the spot with ink, nail polish, or a piece of tape.
Homemade due date calculator
See information about a tool you can makethat shows a woman’s likely due date if you know the date of her last monthly bleeding.
A stethoscope is a hollow tube that makes it easier to listen for sounds inside a person’s chest or belly. It is a good tool for listening to the baby’s heartbeat inside the womb. The best stethoscopes are made of metal and plastic, and can be expensive. But there are several homemade stethoscopes you can make:
about 15 cm
3 to 4 cm
- Use a hollow tube of bamboo, wood, or clay.
|Beam scale||Folding scale|
|This is the easiest kind to make and probably the most accurate. The beam can be made of dry wood or bamboo. The movable weight can be a bag, bottle, or tin can filled with sand.||This scale is easy to carry from place to place. It works best if made of metal or plywood strips.|
2 hooks about 5 cm apart
scale hangs from this hook
beam (1 m long)
movable weight (about 1 kg)
hang scale from your hand or hook
joined with nuts and bolts
plywood or sheet metal
|Quarter-circle scale||Spring scale|
|If this scale is made with plywood, use sheet metal to reinforce the upper corner. The weight should be between 1 and 2 kilograms. It can be made from scrap metal or a piece of heavy pipe.||This scale is made with a coil spring inside a bamboo tube. The spring should be about 30 centimeters long and squeeze to half its length with a weight of 15 kilograms.|
holes about 2 cm apart
wire or cord
plywood or sheet metal
washer to mark weight
How to make the scales accurate
To mark the scale accurately, you will need some standard weights. Perhaps you can:
- borrow some weights from a merchant at the market.
- use a merchant’s scales to make your own weights by filling bags with sand.
- use 1-kilogram packages or cans of food.
To mark your scale
- Hang a 1-kilogram weight on it.
- Balance the movable weight.
Mark the spot with a small line and write a “1.”
- Now add 1 more kilogram at a time, rebalancing the weight and making a mark each time, until you have 6 or 7 marks on the scale