**Disclaimer – information in this post may have changed due to COVID-19**
Pregnancy can lead to a lot of curious question asking. Some of these questions can be answered by a wise mother or an experienced friend, but some, just lead to more questions. One such topic that we hear crop up time and time again is the maternity care debate; public, private and semi-private-what’s the difference and what should I choose?
Knowledge is everything
We’re here to answer these questions, simply and fairly, as best we can. There are no right or wrong answers but with the right knowledge, it may be easier to find the right solution for you.
So where to begin? We’ll begin by saying that everyone should start with a full check-up. If you seem to be anticipating a straightforward and healthy pregnancy, then the world is your oyster when it comes to maternity care.
Still too broad? Let’s break it down and take a simple look at the pros and cons of each:
Public Maternity Care
Firstly, public maternity care is a service available to all women in Ireland. But, what does it provide?
What do you get?
• An initial examination with your GP and 2 postnatal visits to your GP
• 5 GP examinations during your pregnancy- alternated with visits to the maternity hospital
• Free in-patient, out-patient and accident and emergency/casualty services in public hospitals- mother is not liable for hospital charges.
• Emergency care / intervention from consultant if necessary e.g. caesarean section etc.
• At your birth, you’ll be in the care of the on duty mid-wives, and the consultant on duty if needed.
Don’t forget that there’s also the option of an outreach midwife led clinic which allows women to give birth with a midwife and then make use of early transfer home. Here the midwife comes to visit every day for 5 days.
• Not guaranteed to see the same midwife or GP with each antenatal visit or on the day of labour
• Care for other illnesses which you may have at this time, but which are not related to your pregnancy are not covered by the scheme
• May not receive as many take-home scans as with private
Semi Private Care
For those who don’t want to fully commit to the private route, there is also a semi-private route, just to make things more confusing. This route obviously falls in between private and public and comes with its own perks and pitfalls, which we’ve listed below:
What you get:
• Generally, pregnant mothers will consistently meet the same consultant privately for prenatal visits and then will be a patient of whatever obstetrician is available from that team on the day of the birth.
• After the birth, the mother will stay in a semi-private room if there is a bed available- should be 2 and 5 beds in a room
• If mother has private health insurance, this should cover a good deal of the cost which varies anywhere from under €1000 to over €2000
• Waiting times for your pre birth care are intended to be shorter but not guaranteed.
• Health insurance only partially covers costs
• Not guaranteed to have the same doctor with each visit or on the day of the birth
• Not guaranteed a bed in the semi-private ward. It depends on availability.
Many first-time mothers feel like they need to go private for peace of mind. Experiences vary wildly from person to person and from hospital to hospital. The best way to give a simple and measured review of this route is to take a look at what you get and you don’t get.
What you get:
• Consistent access to the same consultant at each antenatal visit
• Your consultant is present during birth. If he unavailable, an equally as experienced stand in is generally nominated.
• Access to a private room after the birth (if one is available).
• Parents will receive scans after each postnatal meeting.
• Many private consultants allow multiple scans through out your birth.
• Appointments times are generally kept and you should have to wait around less.
• Quite costly. Can vary between €2000-€5000 with private health insurance unfortunately only covering a portion of this the charge, depending on policy
• Not guaranteed to have private accommodation- rooms allocated on a first come first serve basis with limited numbers.
What are you really paying for?
It’s crucial to note that each pregnancy is totally unique, so no-one can make a call on your behalf. But, after weighing up the facts, opinions and anecdotal insights, the general consensus seems to be that private and semi-private maternity care offer great peace of mind on paper but that the very perks you’re paying for, can’t be guaranteed.
Again, get an initial check-up with a trusted GP and once you’ve determined the nature of your birth you can make a safe decision from there.
Whatever route you choose, you’ll be in good hands, with highly trained professionals, there to help.
Take your time, do your research and it’ll all be fine.