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Prenatal care? What are my options?

You have several options when it comes to the type of care you would like to avail of for your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. Your choice will depend on your financial situation, your health insurance, and the health of you and your baby. Your options include Public Care, Combined Care, Semi-Private Care, Private Care, Midwife-Led Units and Community Midwives Home Birth Schemes.
Public Care is available to those who fit full residency criteria in Ireland. You are entitled to free maternity care regardless if you have health insurance or not. This covers your antenatal care, pregnancy, labour and accommodation. for your antenatal appointments. You will attend the hospital, or in some cases if your pregnancy is considered low risk, a midwife clinic, for your antenatal appointments. You may also choose combined care so that you can see our GP for some of the visits. When you arrive at the hospital to give birth, you will be taken care of by a midwife whom may or may not have met before. If the birth goes well without any complications you might not see a doctor at all throughout your stay. After the birth you will be transferred to a public ward where there will be 8 beds in each room. Pubic Care also covers your Postnatal check-ups.
Combined Care is where you can combine visits to your regular GP with hospital visits. You can avail of this service regardless if you are using Public care, Private care, Semi-Private care or a Midwife.
Semi-Private Care varies from hospital to hospital and so can mean different things regarding policies and practices. Usually it means you will visit a semi-private clinic for your antenatal visits and will be seen by a consultant, although you may not be seen by the same person on each visit. When you are giving birth in the hospital you will be looked after by a midwife, but there will be a member of the consultant’s team available should there be any complications. Costs vary depending on the hospital and the care you needed. After the birth you will be brought to a semi-private ward. This will have between 4 and 6 beds.
With Private Care you will see the same consultant for each of your antenatal visits and they will usually be the one delivers your child. If they are not available, they will arrange for another consultant to be there. Ideally with Private Care you should have your own private room after the birth. This, however, cannot always be the case as hospitals are so short on space and so you may have to spend some time in a semi-private or public room. Some insurers will cover the costs of some consultant’s fees, which can range between €2,500 and €5,000. A 3 night stay in hospital can cost up to €6,000.
In a hospital the Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) is a team of midwives who look after a pregnant woman from when she first checks in, through her labour and the birth, and for her postnatal care. This service is free and there are 2 MLUs in Ireland – in Cavan and Drogheda. You may avail of this service if you have a low risk pregnancy.
The Community Midwives Home Birth scheme provides a team of midwives for your antenatal care and will assist you in giving birth at home. This service is free of charge. Only those with a low risk pregnancy can avail of this scheme. Discuss with your midwife if you are in this category. If there are any problems, or if a mum decides that the scheme isn’t ideal for her, she can transfer to hospital care.
Woman can also avail of the Early Transfer Home Scheme. Thisscheme allows mother and baby to go home as early as 6 hours after the birth, once baby and mummy are healthy. If your baby is born during the night then you can go home the following morning.
The decision is yours on which route you would like to take. Think about what suits your circumstances best and what feels right for you. Discuss with your GP or a midwife on what your options are and also ask other mothers what their experiences were so that you can make the best decision for you and your baby. 
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