ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW OF THE EXPERIENCES OF A MIDWIFE, RECORDED IN 1997
National Archives of Singapore
In 1965, a baby was born in Singapore every 11 minutes or so. During this period of high birth rates in Singapore, the Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) was handling an average of 100 deliveries a day and births at KKH reached a high of 39,835 in 1966.
However, not all expectant mothers were able to get easy access hospital facilities and many, especially from the rural areas, relied heavily on midwives. In addition to assisting in the actual delivery of babies, midwives issued birth reports and provided antenatal and postnatal care. They made house visits and taught the importance of matters such as good hygiene and a proper diet. In the 1960s, there were over 1,000 registered midwives in Singapore.
The oral history interview featured is from Sumitera Mohd Letak who was a midwife from 1964 to 1988. In this interview, she shed light on how home deliveries were managed and shared stories of the complicated cases that she had encountered over the years. She also tells of her experiences of being posted to Pulau Brani from where ships referred to as “travelling dispensaries” travelled to smaller islands “once in a month or sometimes alternate months” to dispense medicines, milk, inoculations and other healthcare services.
To read the transcript or listen to the full interview online, click here.