Anxious moments during a home birth in 1966

Madam Chia Yew Chin's letter regarding the risks of home births is relevant ("Risks involved in home births may be too high"; last Wednesday).

Home births were done in Singapore and controlled by the then Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH) from 1955 to 1968.

All medical students in those days were trained at KKH and were rostered to do one delivery under the Domiciliary Delivery System.

It was a carefully controlled system. Patients were selected according to a few requirements. For instance, they had to be young, delivering their second baby, and had had a previous vaginal delivery. The baby could not be too large and had to have head presentation.

I attended one such birth in 1966. I went with an experienced midwife in a KKH ambulance at 3am.

The patient was delivered on the floor, on some clean linen and paper provided by the hospital.

The delivery was smooth but the placenta was retained.

Although I knew the theory, neither I nor the midwife had ever done a manual placental removal.

However, I knew that the ambulance was waiting outside, if needed. I had many anxious moments before the placenta was expelled.

It was a humbling experience and I was relieved to complete the delivery without mishap.

Looking back, I feel that current expectations would not allow any misadventure. Unless we have more than the precautionary measures used 50 years ago, it is wise to follow the example of the British royal family, who would leave Buckingham Palace to deliver in a proper hospital.

Chew Shing Chai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Anxious moments during a home birth in 1966'. Print Edition | Subscribe