Antenatal Care

Antenatal Care Services

What antenatal care is available?

If you think you are pregnant, the first step is to visit your GP, who will confirm your pregnancy, estimate the date your baby is due and discuss your plans for antenatal (pre-birth) care.

In Ireland, all expectant mothers are entitled to free maternity care, covering antenatal visits, labour, delivery and postnatal care. You may opt for services under the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which is a system of combined care, split between your GP and a maternity unit/hospital obstetrician.

Alternatively, you may choose to visit the hospitalís antenatal clinic, either as a public, semi-private or private patient.

You are entitled to take paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments.

What is the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme?

The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme provides a programme of care to all expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. It combines antenatal care provided by a family doctor (GP) of your choice and a hospital obstetrician. You are entitled to the service free of charge, even if you do not hold a medical card.

Patients would normally attend their GP before the 12th week of pregnancy. The GP provides a further 6 examinations during the pregnancy, which are alternated with visits to the maternity unit/hospital. The first visit to the hospital antenatal clinic should take place by the 20th week. 

If the expectant mother suffers from a significant illness, e.g., diabetes or hypertension, up to 5 additional visits to the GP may be provided.

The scheme also provides for two post-natal visits to the GP Ė the first of which is at 2 weeks, when the GP will examine the baby, and the second at 6 weeks, when both mother and baby will be examined.

The mother is entitled to free in-patient and out-patient public hospital services in respect of the pregnancy, and is not liable for any of the hospital charges.

Your GP can provide you with an application form for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which you and your GP will both need to complete. This should then be returned to your Local Health Office, where it will be processed for inclusion in the Scheme.

Other options

You may choose to attend a hospitalís antenatal clinic, rather than receiving antenatal care through the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme. If you are a private patient you will be appointed your own consultant, whom you will see at each visit. Semi-private patients may see a consultant privately or attend a semi-private clinic. Public patients will be seen by doctors at the hospitalís antenatal clinic, or can choose to attend the midwivesí clinic if the hospital has one.

Your GP or local health office will advise you of the nearest maternity hospital(s) and will supply you with a letter of referral. You can telephone the hospital directly to make a first appointment.

If you are opting for a home birth and wish to avail of statutory services, you will need to approach your local HSE Area. They will provide you with a list of midwives/doctors who might attend you. If your HSE Area cannot provide an experienced practitioner in home delivery, they may provide you with a grant of up to Ä1270 instead, towards contracting the services of a private midwife.

What happens at Antenatal Visits?

At your first visit to hospital, you will speak to a midwife, who will ask you a range of background questions about your health and medical history. You will also have an opportunity to ask any questions about your care. The purpose of this first visit is to get a full picture of your health and the health of your baby.

You will also be asked for a urine sample at this visit, have your blood pressure taken and will have some blood tests. The purpose of all this will be explained to you. At some hospitals you may have an ultrasound scan on your first visit, while at others you will have it at around 20 weeks.

At all subsequent visits, you will provide a urine sample, your blood pressure will be taken and you will be examined.

Reviewed: September 29, 2006

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