If you have a low-risk pregnancy, you 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.
Since June 2022, a temporary suspension of the HSE home birth service in the Midwest is in place pending the outcome of an external review of the service.
COVID-19 and pregnancy
If you are pregnant and think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your GP. Most women who test positive and have mild symptoms can safely self-isolate at home (7 days). Routine antenatal or ultrasound appointments should be postponed until after the period of self-isolation.
Pregnant women who have COVID-19 should only attend the hospital if in need of urgent medical or obstetric care. It is important to phone the hospital before going to make sure you are seen at the right place by the right medical team.
If you are booked to have a home birth and you are worried about COVID-19, contact your self-employed community midwife or the maternity hospital where you are booked for antenatal care.
Check with your local hospital about antenatal classes as many have moved online.
Pregnancy and the COVID-19 vaccine
If you have not had any COVID-19 vaccines, you can get your first round of COVID-19 vaccination or first booster at any stage of your pregnancy.
If you had a booster dose during your current pregnancy, then a second booster dose is not needed.
If you had a booster dose before this pregnancy, you can get your second booster at or after 16 weeks of your pregnancy.
Find more information on getting the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy, and getting the vaccine while trying for a baby or breastfeeding on the HSE website.
If you are unsure about whether to get a vaccination before, during or after pregnancy, you can read the HSE’s information booklet (pdf).
How the National Home Birth Service works
If you want to find out more about the National Home Birth Service, you 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 will need to 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 entitles 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.
Private home birth arrangements
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.