Maternity Care: Public, Semi-Private and Private Options
Most women in Ireland get their maternity care for free through the HSE. While this is a great option, there are several other options available to choose from. The type of care available will depend upon how the pregnancy progresses, where the woman gives birth, and how much she would like or is able to spend. From paying for scans to going to private hospitals, this guide aims to explore the different options available to women seeking maternity care – both during pregnancy and after the birth itself.
The Types of Maternity Care Available
There are three types of maternity care available to women in Ireland. These include:
Public Maternity Care
Through the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, if you either live in Ireland, or are planning to live in Ireland for at least a one year period, you are entitled to receive antenatal care for free through the HSE, and you won’t need to use a medical card or a GP visit card. Public maternity care is often the most selected choice, primarily because it is free and has been around for many years. The likelihood that many of us were born in a public maternity ward is probably quite high too – and for good reason. Maternity services provided by the HSE or any other public health care service for that matter are tried and tested. In addition, many women will likely go with the public option as they may not want to have to stress or worry about deciding on which private option to go with. The type of maternity care you can get through the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme includes:
- Having blood tests
- Having appointments with obstetrician or midwives during your pregnancy
- Having appointments with your GP during your pregnancy including the 2-week and 6-week postnatal check-ups
- Receiving medical care during labour and birth from midwives (and potentially an obstetrician if required)
- Having an ultrasound scan
One downside of going public is that you are not guaranteed to have the same midwives or doctors each time you visit. Furthermore, during the birth, a doctor may not be present at all. While the midwives will of course be sufficiently qualified, many families would prefer to have the presence of a doctor during delivery. However, if your natural birth does not go according to plan, an obstetrician will be called to get involved. In addition, one important thing to note is that in the event that you require care or treatment for other illnesses which you may have at this time, but which are not related to your pregnancy are not covered by the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme.
Semi-Private Maternity Care
Semi-Private Maternity Care, as the name suggests is a combination of both public and private care, that also comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s what’s included with semi-private care:
- Private health insurance should cover a decent amount of the cost
- Typically pregnant mothers will have the same consultant privately for prenatal visits
- Following the birth, mothers stay in a semi-private room if there is a bed available. Each room consists of around 2 to 5 beds or so
- Pre-birth care waiting times are often reduced but not always
The first drawback that may be evident from above is that you will have to pay for some of the care. In addition, many of the features of going semi-private are not guaranteed. With regard to getting a bed in a private room, for example, this is based on availability. Furthermore, health insurance will not be able to cover all of the maternity care.
Private Maternity Care
As you might have expected, to access Private maternity care it will come with a price. On average the price of private maternity care is in the region of €2,500 up to over €5,000 and sometimes more. While this is the case, it will, of course, mean a variety of benefits over the traditional route of public maternity care. Here’s what you’d get opting for private care:
- Access the same doctor or consultant
- This same consultant will often be present throughout the birth
- If available, access to your own private room
- Many more scans provided, often at each appointment
- Missed appointments are very unlikely
- Less waiting time
Which one should you go with?
Overall, each pregnancy is different and deciding on which type of maternity care to go for will depend upon your own circumstances. In addition, all three options come with their own unique benefits and drawbacks, and in order to decide upon the best option for your family, you need to factor these into your decision.