What Is The Difference Between Public And Private Maternity Care?

Now that you’ve seen those lines on the test and possibly had it confirmed by your GP, you will have to make a decision about your maternity care. 

If you have just found out that you are pregnant – congratulations! What an incredibly exciting time. You may not be feeling so wonderful right now but we hope that this is good news that has come your way.
Now that you’ve seen those lines on the test and possibly had it confirmed by your GP, you will have to make a decision about your maternitycare. This may be something that has never dawned on you before and it can feel a little bit overwhelming trying to weigh it all up and make the right decision for your growing family.
In Ireland, every citizen is entitled to free maternity care during her pregnancy, throughout the birth and postnatally for a certain period of time. It won’t cost you a penny. Meeting the midwives, all of those antenatal appointments, the classes, the scans, the birth itself and then the after-care for you and the baby – it’s all free. That is what we refer to as the public system.
By now you may have had people explaining to you that the public system is absolutely fine and that there is no need to consider anything more. On the flip side, you might just have a friend who is telling you the very opposite. She’s telling you about the joy of having the same consultant throughout her pregnancy and present at the birth as well as that private room in the maternity ward that made all the difference. It’s got you thinking and possibly even bumping heads with your other half. Where do you go from here?

Let’s talk about the difference.
Public maternity care is free whereas semi-private and private maternity care is not. Semi-private care may cost you anywhere between €1000 and €2000. You can expect private care to set you back about double that at anywhere between €2000 and €4000 depending on the hospital and indeed the consultant you choose. A portion of this fee may be covered by your health insurance scheme.

One of the most popular reasons for choosing private care in Ireland is the luxury of seeing the same consultant throughout your pregnancy. If you choose private care, you may even be doing so because you have heard great things about a particular consultant in a particular maternity hospital. If seeing the same person is really important to you then perhaps private care is worth giving some thought to. There is a strong likelihood that this consultant will be present at your birth to deliver the baby but there is no guarantee as another client of theirs may be birthing at the very same time as you. There is a very strong chance they will be there though.

In terms of waiting times, it really can be luck of the draw and indeed luck on the day. Many women who experienced private care noticed a very small difference in the wait times at their pre and postnatal appointments compared to their experience of the public system. It can be very dependent on the specific hospital and the number of women under their care.

In certain hospitals, private care will afford you the option of extra scans. There may be an opportunity for an early reassurance scan or a scan between the twelve-week scan and the anomaly scan which is usually around the twenty-week mark. However, it is worth noting that there are a huge number of private scanning companies that offer these scans for as little as €100-€150 which may be more affordable for you if this is a motivating factor for you. 

In terms of the room you will reside in during your hospital stay, it may be entirely dependent on availability at the time you are giving birth. Your care package may suggest a private room or perhaps a room with just 3-4 other women. Each package and hospital is different and it’s worth asking specific questions at your hospital before you make a decision about your care.

We wouldn’t like to sway you either way about what decision is best for you. It is an extremely personal decision and your personality and financial situation may be the determining factor. The pregnancy itself may be the determining factor if there are certain concerns or risks associated.
Whatever you decide, we wish you the best of luck with your little bundle.

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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