Hesperian Health Guides
Health skills: Introduction
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Midwives help women and families during pregnancy and birth, but also with health needs that are not directly connected to giving birth. This makes sense because the skills and understanding that a midwife brings to a woman during pregnancy and birth are also of use when a woman needs other health care, or is having a medical emergency. For example, a midwife who is already skilled at stopping bleeding after a birth can easily learn to stop bleeding after a pregnancy has ended early.
In many places, a midwife is also the only health worker in the community. In these places, midwives already help women and their families with many of their general health care needs. The more skills midwives gain, the better able they will be to help women who have no other health care.
This section describes how to do a number of procedures that may be useful in labor, or may be useful for helping women with health needs in other parts of their lives. These procedures can be done by most midwives in most places. But they may require careful training and practice to do safely. Be sure to get help from other experienced health workers and teachers when learning to do these procedures. Only try the more invasive procedures after you have been trained, and only if you have sterile tools. But do not be afraid to learn these new skills. With these skills, you will be able to improve the lives of the women in your community.
In the following chapters, we give instructions for giving injections and IVs, for checking dilation in labor, and for speeding a labor that is going slowly. Two chapters tell how to help women use family planning and how to treat women who have sexually transmitted infections.
We also explain how to give a woman a pelvic exam to look for signs of infection or cancer. Other chapters describe how to help a woman who wants to use an IUD for family planning, and how to help a woman who is having problems after a pregnancy ends early.
One of the most important tasks of a midwife is deciding when and how to get help. No one can solve all health problems on her own. Chapter 24 gives ideas about working with medical centers, hospitals, and other health workers so women can have safe care in emergencies.
Finally, Chapter 25 gives ideas for making homemade equipment and teaching tools.