Chapter 5: Preventing infection
Protect yourself frominfection
Midwives must protect themselves from germs and infection. You will not be able to
help women if you are sick. And if you are infected with dangerous germs, you can
easily spread them to the women you are trying to help.
Some germs that cause serious illnesses, like AIDS and hepatitis B, only live in
blood, urine, stool, the bag of waters, and other body fluids. That means you do not
get these illnesses just by touching someone’s skin. But the germs that cause AIDS
and hepatitis B can infect you if an infected person’s blood gets into a cut or opening
in your skin — even a cut so small that you cannot see it (see page 99 for all the ways
HIV can spread). Keep blood and other body fluids off your clothing and skin, and
if they do get onto you, wash them off right away with soap and water.
Wear protective clothing
You do not need expensive equipment to keep body
fluids off your skin, out of cuts, and out of your
mouth and eyes. You can wear an apron or an extra
shirt to keep fluid off your body. Protect your eyes
with eyeglasses or plastic goggles. Cover your feet
so that you do not step into blood or other fluids.
Wash all your clothing after any blood, waters, or other
body fluids gets on it. If you get body fluids in your eyes
or mouth, rinse them for several minutes with clean water
or saline (water with a little salt added).
If you do not have
clothing made to protect
you from blood and fluids,
you can make it from
what you already have.
Be careful with needles
If a syringe is used to give an injection, or a needle was used for sewing a vaginal tear,
the needle has blood on it. If you accidentally stick yourself with that used needle, you
will be exposed to germs. Carry needles carefully with the point away from your body.
Do not leave needles lying around.
Use each needle only once and then throw it away in a box like the one on page 68.
You may be able to get needles that can only be used once and do not need a cap. If you
must reuse a needle, put the cap on very carefully and then put the needle in a bucket
filled with bleach solution (see page 57) until you are ready to clean and sterilize it.
How to avoid puncturing your skin with a needle
Do not use your hand to
put the cap on the needle.
Instead, use the needle
to pick up the cap.
Then close the
cap all the
Note: If you do get stuck by a needle, immediately wash the area with
soap and water or alcohol and dispose of the needle properly (see
pages 67 and 68). Do not use it on another person.
A Book for Midwives (2010)