Expat Perspective on Being Pregnant in Ireland

When I found out I was pregnant, I was elated and teary, but also facing so many unknowns and new experiences. The whole giving birth part wasn’t even my biggest concern at the time. Being thousands of miles from my mother, the girl friends I grew up with who had so much motherhood experience, and my sister-in-law made me feel a bit unprepared for the process of creating a baby human.

Now, let’s be practical here. The main questions you will be asked when pregnant in Ireland is: “Are you Public or Private?” and “How’s baby?” Public or private is the first choice you will make as a parent. It defines your antenatal medical care experience throughout the pregnancy and childbirth.

Public = You spend no money and you go to a clinic and see whichever doctor is on duty at that time. Sometimes there is a wait for your appointment of 15 minutes to several hours (I had one friend show up for her 10:15am appointment and not get back to her office until 4pm). Gender scan standard. There is no anomaly scan and you share a hospital room with other new mothers (and their new babies) after delivery. You can have a child without private insurance and not have to sell your belongings (this is a crazy awesome concept for this American)! This doesn’t mean you are poor and having a child, just that you choose to spend all that money on things like food and clothing instead of a doctor you’ll be getting anyway.

Private = You pay €2000–4000 to see the same doctor throughout the pregnancy in their private offices. Insurance will reimburse a portion of this (20% if you’re lucky). Gender scan standard. If insured and available, a private hospital room may be yours when you are admitted for delivery. There is sometimes a wait for the appointment, like when he doctor is delivering a baby on emergency. The doctor we chose had WiFi in the waiting room so we could work remotely while waiting. I should also disclose that our doctor is likely in the rotation for the public clinic as well so top caliber doctors in both cases.

Combination = Public for pregnancy and Private (your private insurance or trust fund covers this) for delivery. Or so I’ve been told.  There is an option for a combination, but that isn’t possible in Cork for some reason.

We chose private (it was not a decision we made lightly, though it was made quickly) because we heard about lengthy waits for public appointments and my husband wanted to accompany me and he couldn’t be away from his office for more than an hour or two at a time. Most appointments were prompt and we were in and out in one hour. It was the right choice for us. Especially comforting when they discovered the liver growth since even my GP was dismissive, explaining it was prolonged morning sickness (just like the anaemia I had for months after giving birth was “normal new mammy fatigue”).

In both cases, if the infant is healthy and above 2.5kg, he or she will “room in” with the mother in the hospital room. A basinet beside the bed is baby’s bed for the first two nights of life. This means from the moment you give birth until you take your first vacation, your baby never leaves your side. It also means you are doing the feedings from the start and creating that bond immediately. But more about that in Wednesday’s post about giving birth in Ireland. Midwives are there to help you transition to this new role, but they don’t hover. You need help, you ask, they answer. 

Every pregnancy will be different, but the main information that is helpful to know is that right away you need to choose if you are opting for private care or public care. Check back tomorrow to read about my baby shower then on Wednesday I’ll share details about what it’s like to give birth in Ireland. Thursday, my post will be about being a new mother here. Oh yes, it’s all about motherhood this week here. I’ve been receiving a few messages asking what it’s like so I thought it would be better to write it all up in one week.

Here is a photo of me eight months pregnant. We didn’t know at the time, but LB was to be a low birth weight baby (2.5kg). Obvious now when we look back at the progress of my belly though.



2 thoughts on “Expat Perspective on Being Pregnant in Ireland

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  1. Hi, I’m an expat too! The whole public private thing confused me when I was newly pregnant with number one too, it is such a strange idea after being in the US. Don’t forget now in Cork we have option 3 or 4. Domino (public and free)- still public but with a team of midwives, fast discharge if all is well and then home visits for 5 days. Or Home birth (public and free)- initial scan in the hospital at 12 weeks and then you see your midwife at her home office for all your prenatal visits, give her a ring when you are ready to give birth and all going well you have your baby at home, home visits from that midwife for 2 weeks post birth. I went public but paid 200 euro for a anomaly scan. Now an anomaly scan is supposed to be standard (and free) for the home birth scheme- but then again we are supposed to have free GP care for our under 6’s this year too and that hasn’t actually manifested.

    1. Wow, Biz, I didn’t know about options 4 and 5. Brilliant. Since LB was being monitored closely for his weight, they weren’t about to let us leave early and for logistical reasons (mostly the cost of parking and the time to get to/from the hospital), I didn’t want to go home without him. So right about what is approved and standardised by the government isn’t always approved and implemented by the doctors.

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