Hesperian Health Guides

Be ready for emergencies

In this chapter:

Most pregnancies and births are healthy. Using the information in the following chapters, you can prevent many problems. But any woman, no matter how healthy she is, can have serious problems. Midwives help prevent health problems in three ways:

  1. Midwives watch for warning signs — symptoms that show a woman may be developing a problem.
  2. Midwives treat emergencies when they can.
  3. Midwives transport women with serious warning signs or health problems to a doctor or medical center.
2 health workers speaking.
Something did not seem right, so I brought the mother here to the hospital.
I am glad you did! She has an infection.

Watch for warning signs

The following chapters on labor and birth list many warning signs. Most warning signs tell you to watch closely and wait to see what happens. Some warning signs may go away. Other signs are very serious. If a woman has a very serious warning sign, or if her warning signs do not go away, she should get help right away.

You may know of warning signs that are not in this book. Think about the health problems that affect pregnant women in your community. Do women usually have signs before they get these problems?

Sometimes midwives do not see a sign that something is wrong, but they just have a feeling there might be a problem. If you have this feeling, ask for help from other midwives, health workers, or doctors. They may see the problem that you did not.

Treat emergencies

This book explains some ways to act quickly and treat bleeding, shock, and other emergencies. Make sure you are trained and ready to help with as many of these emergencies as possible.

Transport women to a medical center

There are some problems during birth that midwives cannot help with at home or in a small clinic. If a mother has very heavy bleeding, pre-eclampsia, very long labor, high fever, or other serious problems, a midwife may not be able to save her life. At these times, the mother is in serious danger, and the midwife must help her get to a medical center immediately.

a hospital with a door labeled "Emergency."

A woman or baby having a serious problem needs a well-equipped medical center with tools, medicines, and experienced health workers. Even if you treat a woman with a serious problem at home, it is a good idea to get medical help to be sure she is OK.

Before the birth, help each mother and her family make a plan for how to get to a medical center if needed. Know where the closest hospital is. Make sure there is transportation (like a truck and someone to drive it) and money to pay for fuel and services. (If she does not have money, you should still get medical help in an emergency.) See Chapter 24 for more on how to work with hospitals and health workers.

This page was updated:24 May 2023