Having a baby or becoming a parent through birth, adoption or fostering is an exciting time and a major event in life. Family life in Ireland has changed significantly in the past few years and there are now many different types of parents and many different types of families.
If you live in Ireland and will beome a parent through birth, your first step after discovering the pregnancy should be to visit your family doctor (GP). Your doctor will confirm your pregnancy and you will receive important advice about your options and the health services available to you. If this is an unplanned pregnancy, the Positive Options register will provide information on the wide range of agencies and groups offering free non-directional support and counselling (pdf) services.
If you or your partner will be giving birth in Ireland, you may avail of the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, provided as part of the public health service. Here, the woman registers with a family doctor (GP), who will monitor her pregnancy throughout the term and refer her to a hospital for specialised checks. Most women in Ireland choose to give birth in hospital, but there are other options available, including home birth. The infant mortality rate in Ireland is one of the lowest in the world and maternity healthcare is of a very high standard.
If you are an unmarried parent or will be parenting alone, you should read through our information on custody, access, inheritance and maintenance. You may also have an interest in the issue of legal guardianship.
The law in Ireland provides specific protection for pregnant employees. You are entitled to a period of maternity leave from employment. You may also be entitled to Maternity Benefit. In addition you are entitled to paid time-off work to attend any medical visits associated with the pregnancy and to attend a certain number of ante-natal classes. Both parents are also entitled to parental leave. Fathers in Ireland are not entitled by law to any time-off work (i.e. paternity leave) following the birth of their children. Child Benefit is also payable to either parent (usually the mother) following the birth.
If you have become a parent through adoption, you are entitled to a period of adoptive leave from employment.
If you have experienced a miscarriage or bereavement following the birth of your child, there are a number of voluntary and community agencies throughout Ireland that offer assistance and support. Women in Ireland who have experienced a stillbirth are entitled to full maternity leave from employment.
After your child has been born, you must register his/her birth within 3 months of the date of birth. Parents that have experienced a stillbirth can also register the birth. Registration may take place in the office of any Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths.
The law in Ireland makes presumptions about the paternity of children born to married couples. This means the husband is presumed by law to be the father of the child. The husband's name will be recorded on the birth certificate and he will acquire automatic guardianship of that child unless the mother states otherwise. Unmarried fathers are not automatical guardians of their own children and do not have an automatic right to have their names included on their children's birth certificates. Read about guardianship for unmarried fathers here.
The public health service incorporates care for women and children following a birth in Ireland. This includes the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, the public health nursing service, vaccinations and immunisations.
Choosing the right care for your child can be a difficult decision. There is a wide range of options including day nurseries, childminders, paygroups, etc. Your choice will depend on what your needs are. In January 2010 an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme was introduced which aims to provide a free year of early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age.
Since 1997, nurseries, playgroups and crèches providing day care for children under 6 years in Ireland have to meet certain regulations. Read about the regulation of pre-school childcare places in Ireland here.
Registered childcare providers must be notified to your local Health Services Executive Area and inspected by it. The childcare facility must be registered with either the National Childminding Association of Ireland or the National Children's Nurseries Association. County Childcare Committees have been assigned to advance the provision of child care services within your area. Check with your local authority for more information on your local Committee.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.