Maternity services in Ireland
Having a baby in Ireland
There are a range of maternity care options available in Ireland. This page explains the main type of maternity services available and the differences between public, semi-private and private maternity care.
The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme
You can get free maternity care if you live in Ireland (or if you plan to live here for at least 1 year) with the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme. The scheme includes your antenatal visits during your pregnancy, labour, delivery and postnatal care after your baby is born. You do not need a medical card or a GP visit card to use this scheme.
You can choose to split your care between your GP and your local maternity unit/hospital. This is known as combined care or shared care. Alternatively, you can choose to get all of your care at the hospital's antenatal clinic. This option is available in all maternity units and hospitals in Ireland.
Types of maternity care
Under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, you can choose consultant-led antenatal care based in your local hospital.
You can choose to get maternity care from experienced midwives in a midwifery-led clinic. This clinic is usually based in the hospital, and is provided alongside care from your consultant.
If a problem during your labour is detected or anticipated, your team of midwives will contact the on-call obstetrician (a specialist in pregnany and childbirth).
After you give birth, you can leave the hospital earlier (early discharge) if appropriate. One of the team of midwives will visit you at home (daily if necessary) for after birth (postnatal) care.
If you want to attend the midwifery-led clinic, tell your midwife or consultant during your first antenatal visit.
If you have a normal-risk pregnancy (no complications), a community midwife can:
- Provide your antenatal visits, either in a local clinic or your home
- Deliver your baby either in hospital (for example, Domino Scheme) or at home (home birth)
- Provide postnatal care (care after your baby is born) and answer any maternity questions you may have by phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you choose to be cared for by community midwives, you will need to have a routine scan at around 18-22 weeks and a full physical examination to assess your suitability. If you experience any problems during pregnancy or labour, you will be immediately transferred back to full hospital care.
Community midwives are self-employed and for this reason, their service is only available in particular areas and when the midwives have availability.
The Domino Scheme
The Domino Scheme is a midwife-led maternity service in community-based clinics.
On the Domino Scheme, you will be cared for by experienced community midwives throughout your pregnancy, during your labour (in hospital) and for the first week after your baby is born. This midwife-led care is combined with care from your GP.
You will also be given the opportunity to leave the hospital early (early discharge) if appropriate. You may be able to go home as soon as 6-12 hours after your baby is born.
If you are using the Domino Scheme you may be supported by Domino midwives to use natural birthing methods and minimum intervention.
The Domino Scheme is only available:
- To women with normal-risk pregnancies (no pregnancy complications)
- In certain areas
- From certain maternity hospitals and maternity units
If you are interested in using the Domino scheme, contact your local maternity hospital or maternity unit to see if it is available in your area.
You can choose to have your baby at home if you have a normal-risk pregnancy (no complications).
During the home birth, you will be supported by 2 self-employed community midwives on behalf of the HSE. You do not have to pay for this service.
If you or your baby develop health problems, you will need to deliver your baby in hospital, under the care of an obstetrician (a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and labour).
If you want to have a home birth, contact your GP and your local designated midwifery officer as early as possible in your pregnancy to discuss if it is a safe option for you, and to find out the availability of this service in your area.
Public, semi-private and private care options
You will be asked whether you want to be a public, semi-private or private patient when you ring to make your first appointment.
- Free public care
You can get free maternity care through the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
Your hospital appointments will usually be with a midwife. You can also choose to see your GP for some appointments. If your pregnancy is higher risk, obstetricians and midwives will provide your care.
Free public care covers births in hospitals and the HSE Home Birth Service.
You will need to register for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
- Semi-private care
If you choose semi-private care, a consultant obstetrician will oversee your care. A semi-private ward may be provided after the birth, if available.
Semi-private care combines public and private care. This means that part of your care is free, but you pay for additional services. Most people use their private health insurance to cover this fee. Check your level of cover with your insurance provider so you know what the fees will be and what will be covered by your private health insurance.[MF4]
You should also register for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
- Private care
Private antenatal and maternity care is available in all maternity hospitals. With this type of pregnancy care, you'll have a consultant obstetrician. Any extra scans or tests you need during your pregnancy will be covered. You may also get your own private room after the birth if one is available.
If you choose private care, you’ll usually need to pay a consultant's fee as well as a hospital fee. Your private insurance will cover most of the hospital fee, but may not cover the consultant's fee. If you have private health insurance, check your level of cover before booking your antenatal care. You should also register for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
You can find out more about your antenatal care options on the HSE website.