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Emergency Childbirth A Reference Guide for Students of the Medical Self-help Training Course, Lesson No. 11   By:

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We wish to acknowledge with grateful appreciation the many services provided by the American Medical Association, through the Committee on Disaster Medical Care, Council on National Security, Board of Trustees and staff, in the preparation of this handbook.

From the inception of studies to determine emergency health techniques and procedures, the Association gave valuable assistance and support. The Committee on Disaster Medical Care of the Council on National Security, AMA, reviewed the material in its various stages of production, and made significant contributions to the content of the handbook.

A joint publication of the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Office of Civil Defense

and the

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE Public Health Service Health Services and Mental Health Administration Division of Emergency Health Services 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852

Reprinted December 1970


What To Do

1. Let nature be your best helper. Childbirth is a very natural act. 2. At first signs of labor assign the best qualified person to remain with mother. 3. Be calm; reassure mother. 4. Place mother and attendant in the most protected place in the shelter. 5. Keep children and others away. 6. Have hands as clean as possible. 7. Keep hands away from birth canal. 8. See that baby breathes well. 9. Place baby face down across mother's abdomen. 10. Keep baby warm. 11. Wrap afterbirth with baby. 12. Keep baby with mother constantly. 13. Make mother as comfortable as possible. 14. Identify baby.

What Not To Do

1. DO NOT hurry. 2. DO NOT pull on baby, let baby be born naturally. 3. DO NOT pull on cord, let the placenta (afterbirth) come naturally. 4. DO NOT cut and tie the cord until baby AND afterbirth have been delivered. 5. DO NOT give medication.


If it becomes necessary for families to take refuge in fallout shelters there will undoubtedly be a number of babies born under difficult conditions and without medical assistance.

Every expectant mother and the members of her family should do all they can to prepare for emergency births. They will need to know what to do and what to have ready. (See "Expectant Mother's Emergency Kit.")


A pregnant woman should be especially careful to protect herself from radiation exposure. She should have the most protected corner of the shelter and not be allowed to risk outside exposure. She should not lift heavy objects or push heavy furniture. If food shortages exist, she should be given some preference.

Fear and possible exertion involved during an atomic attack will probably increase the number of premature births and of miscarriages.


Usually there is plenty of time after the beginning of first labor pains to get ready for the delivery. Signs of labor are low backache, bloody tinged mucous strings passing from the birth canal, or a gush of water from the birth canal.

The mother will need a clean surface to lie on. Her bed should be so arranged that the mattress is well protected by waterproof sheeting or pads made from several thicknesses of paper covered with cloth. Cover these protective materials with a regular bedsheet.

A warm bed should be made ready in advance for the baby. It may be a clothes basket, a box lined with a blanket, or a bureau drawer placed on firm chairs or on a table. If possible, warm the baby's blanket, shirt, and diapers with a hot water bottle. Warm bricks or a bag of table salt that has been heated can be used if a hot water bottle is not available.

A knife, a pair of scissors, or a razor should be thoroughly cleansed and sterilized in preparation for cutting the umbilical cord. If there is no way to boil water to sterilize them (the preferred method of sterilization), sterilize them by submersion in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution for at least 20 minutes or up to 3 hours, if possible... Continue reading book >>

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