A woman who is experiencing low risk pregnancy may choose to have a home birth. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has a National Home Birth Service for eligible expectant mothers who wish to have a home birth under the care of a Self-Employed Community Midwife (SECM).
In some HSE areas the service may be available through a maternity hospital or a HSE scheme. However in other HSE areas, only private SECMs are available to attend a home birth – see ‘How to apply’ below.
If you want to avail of the National Home Birth Service, you will first need to contact your Local Health Office. You will be put through to the designated official who is a qualified midwife. You will be sent an information pack.
You then contact a Self-Employed Community Midwife (SECM). An SECM has an agreement with the HSE to deliver the home birth service according to certain terms and conditions. You and the midwife should fill out an application form for the service. Your midwife will send the form to the HSE Designated Midwifery Officer (DMO) who will assess your eligibility for the service.
If your application is accepted, this will entitle you to free care during your pregnancy, during labour and birth, and for up to 14 days after your baby is born. The HSE will provide you with a Home Birth Pack with all the information you will need for a home delivery. You can find more detailed information about the process in Appendix 4 Pathway of Care on hse.ie.
Your eligibility for a home birth is continually assessed right up until your baby is born. If, at any stage, you are assessed as not eligible to have your baby at home, your midwife and the DMO can help you to find a suitable maternity unit or hospital.
Alternatively, you can engage a SECM privately and your antenatal, delivery and postnatal care will be provided by them. If you enter into a private arrangement with a private midwife or an SECM for a home birth that has not been approved by the HSE Designated Midwifery Officer, it is the responsibility of your midwife to have appropriate insurance cover and you should be sure that such cover is in place.
If you are using maternity services provided by a hospital or HSE scheme, they are provided free of charge.
Many private health insurers provide a grant towards the cost of a home birth.
How to apply
If you wish to have a home birth, you need to decide this as early as possible in your pregnancy.