The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme provides an agreed programme of care to all expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. This service is provided by a family doctor (GP) of your choice and a hospital obstetrician. You are entitled to this service even if you do not have a medical card or GP visit card. Virtually all GPs have agreements with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide these services; they do not have to be part of the medical card scheme. The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme also provides for two post-natal visits to the GP.
The combined medical services are provided by your family doctor (GP) and a hospital obstetrician.
On your first pregnancy, the GP provides an initial examination, if possible before 12 weeks, and a further 5 examinations during the pregnancy, which are alternated with visits to the maternity unit/hospital. The schedule of visits may be changed by your GP and/or hospital obstetrician, depending on your individual situation. For subsequent pregnancies you will have an initial examination and a further 6 examinations.
If you have a significant illness, for example, diabetes or hypertension, you may have up to 5 additional visits to the GP.
After the birth, the GP will examine the baby at 2 weeks and both mother and baby at 6 weeks.
The mother is entitled to free in-patient, out-patient and accident and emergency/casualty services in public hospitals in respect of the pregnancy and the birth and is not liable for any of the hospital charges.
Care for other illnesses which you may have at this time, but which are not related to your pregnancy is not covered by the Scheme.
However, if you opt to be a private patient of your consultant, you will be liable for the full range of in-patient charges.
The public health nurse visits the mother and baby at home free of charge, usually within 72 hours of returning home from hospital.
The GP who attends the mother also provides care for the new-born baby; they will provide two developmental examinations free of charge at 2 weeks and 6 weeks following the birth.
The baby's entitlement to other free GP services depends on whether they have a medical card or GP visit card. This means that visits to the GP for any conditions related to the baby's health during this six-week period or afterwards are not covered by the scheme unless the baby itself has a medical card or GP visit card. See below for details of how to apply.
If the baby is born in a hospital, it is usual to carry out screening for metabolic disorders (the Guthrie or heel prick test). If the baby is born at home, the test may be carried out by the GP or in the out-patients department of a hospital. This test requires parental consent.
You can find out more about this test on newbornscreening.ie.
Your GP should have application forms for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which you and your GP complete together. Return the form to your Local Health Office.
If you are not eligible for a medical card you can register your child for a GP visit card for children under 6.
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.