Merimbula Old School Museum

Obstetric Ether Equipment

The Story

Ether, opioids, chloroform and alcohol were once commonly administered to women in labour to provide pain relief during childbirth – this particular example being ether obstetric equipment used at Pambula Hospital and an example of basic equipment available to those assisting at childbirth.

During the 19th century, local women helped one another or perhaps a largely untrained but experienced ‘Granny’ would provide support and assistance, but mortality rates for both mother and baby during labour were high (in 1898 a white woman married at age 25 had a 1 in 32 lifetime chance of immediate maternal death, then still had a high risk following each birth of dying from post-labour complications). From around 1900 training was provided to midwives in hospitals, and local ‘lying-in hospitals’, usually in private homes owned by midwives, began to emerge.

This obstetric ether-administering equipment simply provides the pathway to the wider story of midwifery and obstetric services that have been provided in the Shire.

Photos courtesy of Double Take Photography


Main Street Merimbula NSW 2548