Hesperian Health Guides

Preparing for Labor and Birth

Things to have ready before birth

A pregnant woman should have these things ready by the seventh month of pregnancy:

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soap and alcohol clean string
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clean cloths new razor blade two bowls, one for washing, one for holding the afterbirth
If you do not have a new razor blade, you can use rust-free scissors or a knife if you boil them for 20 minutes just before cutting the cord.
This is also the time to:
  • plan transportation in case you need to go to the hospital.
a mop and a bucket
  • clean the birth place.
a pickup truck

Helping a woman give birth

If you are pregnant, read this information to know what to expect during labor and after the baby is born. It will also make you better able to help other women during birth.

If you are helping a woman give birth, reassure the mother so that she will not be afraid. Remember that most babies are born without problems. Stay calm and cheerful, and let her know that you trust her ability to give birth.

For safe childbirth practice the 3 cleans:
1. Clean hands 2. Clean place to give birth 3. Clean tool to cut the cord
a ladle pouring water onto a pair of hands
a room with a bed next to a table that holds supplies
a razor blade in a package
Also see preventing infection.


  • Keep your nails clean and cut short.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean water. Let them dry in the air.
  • Know which women have extra risks and learn the danger signs during pregnancy. Make sure the mother gives birth in a health center or hospital if she has any of these risks or danger signs.
  • Learn the danger signs during labor. Take the woman to a hospital if she has any of these signs.
  • Treat her with kindness and respect.
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IMPORTANT! Protect yourself from HIV and hepatitis by wearing clean gloves during a birth. If you do not have gloves, use washed plastic bags.


  • Do not put your fingers or anything else in the woman's vagina. Checking how much the womb has opened does not help the baby to be born, and may cause a dangerous infection.
  • Do not give any medicine to speed up labor or to make labor stronger. These medicines can kill the mother and the baby. (Medicines that cause the womb to contract should only be used to stop bleeding after the baby is born.)
  • Do not tell her to push before she is ready. When it is time for the baby to be born, she will feel like she has to pass stool and will start pushing on her own.
  • Do not push on the outside of her womb to make the baby come out faster. This can tear her womb or cause the placenta to separate from the womb too soon. Both the mother and the baby can die.

This page was updated:23 Oct 2019