Hesperian Health Guides

Clean the space and bedding

Clean the space

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At home

One reason that birth or medical procedures can happen as safely in a woman’s home as in a medical center is that there are not as many germs in a clean house as in a hospital. But the home should still be cleaned carefully — especially the area where the baby will be born or where procedures such as a pelvic exam or IUD insertion will be done.

Sweep these areas free of dust and dirt, and wash surfaces with soap and water. Put your tools or birth kit on a clean surface.

Move animals out of the house and do not do any medical procedures in places where animals sleep or pass stool, or where people urinate or pass stool. If the floor in the house is made of animal waste (dung), do not let the woman’s body or any of your tools touch the floor. Dung has many germs in it that can easily spread to pregnant women. You can cover the floor with clean straw, cloth, or plastic.

In a hospital, maternity center, or clinic

Be extra careful. Germs can easily be passed from one person to another.

After each birth, wash floors and surfaces. If possible, use a bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solution to wash the floor.

How to make a disinfecting solution of 5% bleach

If your bleach says:
5% available chlorine 10% available chlorine 15% available chlorine
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use undiluted,
straight bleach
use 1 part
and 1 part
use 1 part
and 2 parts
Mix just enough solution for 1 day.
Do not use it again the next day.
It will not be strong enough to kill germs anymore.

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If you do not have bleach, you can wash the floor with:

  • ethanol (medical alcohol) 70%
  • isopropyl alcohol 70%
  • hydrogen peroxide 6%
  • soapy water
  • ammonia

(But do not ever mix bleach with ammonia — when mixed they make a poison.)

Clean or sterilize the bedding

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At home

Wash cloth for covering the bed (bedding) in soap and water, and dry it thoroughly by hanging it in the sun or ironing it. Do not dry bedding on the ground; it will pick up germs.

In a hospital, maternity center, or clinic

Bedding must be sterilized after each birth. Use one of these methods to kill the germs:

  • Wash the bedding with soap
    and water. Then boil for 30
    minutes. Dry thoroughly in a
    clean place.
  • Wash bedding with soap
    and water. Then use a hot
    iron to dry it.
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If neither of these methods is possible, wash the bedding in soap and water and hang it in the sun until it is fully dried. Turn the bedding so the sun shines on both sides, and take care to keep it clean.

Store bedding to keep germs away

If you are not going to use the bedding right away, keep it clean and dry until you are ready to use it. Put it in a clean bag or wrap it in clean paper and store it in a clean, dry place.

Note: Do not store bedding that is damp or wet. Germs will come back!

Other kinds of underpadding

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Sometimes there is no bed or bedding. The birth or procedure happens on the floor. In these cases, it is useful to have some kind of underpadding. This protects the baby and the mother from the germs and dirt that are on the floor. Find a way to clean the underpadding before it is used. For example, banana leaves can be washed with a disinfectant solution, and then smoked or dried in the sun. Cloth rags or sacks can be boiled and then dried.

This page was updated:11 Sep 2019