Navigating the antenatal care system in Ireland can be confusing, especially for first-time parents. We’re here to help and we break it down for you below. 

First off, what is antenatal care? This refers to the care you receive during your pregnancy from healthcare professionals before your baby is born. It can also be referred to as maternity or pregnancy care. In Ireland, there are three different types of antenatal care you can avail of:

  1. Public care
  2. Semi-private care – this is only available in Dublin maternity hospitals 
  3. Private care

Before deciding on which type of care to go with, the very first step is to visit your GP or contact your local maternity unit. They will be able to confirm your pregnancy and discuss your antenatal care options. 

positive pregnancy test

Public Care

If you are a resident (at least 1 year) in Ireland you can get free maternity care through the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme. This covers antenatal visits, labour, delivery and postnatal care. You can choose to split your care between your GP and a maternity unit, which is known as ‘combined care’. Or you can choose to get all of your maternity care at the hospital’s maternity clinic. 

When in public care, the number of appointments you have will depend on you and your baby’s needs. Usually, after confirming your pregnancy, you will have a further 5-6 examinations alternating between GP and hospital visits. However, this may be increased based on your individual circumstances. 

If you have an ‘uncomplicated’ pregnancy, you can choose to have your baby in hospital or at home. Your labour and delivery will be looked after predominantly by the hospital midwives unless complications arise. 

After the birth, you will be moved to the public ward for the rest of your stay. This is generally for about 3 days, though some hospitals will allow you to go home early with follow-up care.

If you have a ‘medium risk’ or ‘higher risk’ pregnancy, your antenatal care will be provided by an obstetrician and a team of midwives. The birth will take place in a hospital setting, rather than at home. 

pregnancy woman getting a scan

Semi-private care 

If you choose this option, a consultant obstetrician will have overall responsibility for your care. If available you will meet this consultant each time you go to the hospital.

During the birth, you will be cared for by midwives with additional support from the hospital doctors if needed. Afterwards, you will stay in a semi-private ward if available, with approximately 3-5 other mothers.

You will have to pay a fee for semi-private care. If you have private health insurance, check with your insurer what is covered under your plan.

still image of foetal scan

Private Care

Going the private route allows you access to a consultant of your choice throughout your pregnancy. All of your antenatal appointments will be with this consultant and they should also be present during your birth (if they are available). After the birth, you have access to a private hospital room if available. Your private care also entitles you to postpartum care from your consultant as well. 

Private care ranges in Ireland from roughly €2000 – €5000. Check with your health insurance provider to assess if you can claim back any of these fees. 

Now you’re armed with the facts, I hope you will be able to make an informed choice about which type of care is the best option for you.  Whichever route you choose, always remember that you’re the best advocate for yourself. If you are unhappy with your care, speak up and voice your concerns. Whether you’re availing of free or private, you’re entitled to safe, confidential, compassionate and respectful care. 

Author Leah Morgan

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