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How to have a home birth in Ireland

This is a question I get asked a LOT. Because I’m a doula, and because I’ve written about my own home birth here.

There are three ways to access a midwife-assisted homebirth in Ireland. Two of these are public options, and there is one private option.

National Home Birth Services

The name is somewhat aspirational here, as many parts of the country are not covered by this service. How this works is as follows: A number of self-employed community midwifes (SECM), provide home birth services on behalf of the HSE (the HSE pays the midwife directly) . Midwifes who have entered this agreement with the HSE - their contact details are listed at the link below.

You can contact the Designated Midwife Officer in your area (their details also listed at the link below) for information, although generally, I think people contact a midwife first to confirm availability.

There is high demand for this service and it’s wise to contact a midwife as early as possible into your pregnancy (although I know of many people who have found a SECM later in pregnancy). You have to meet certain low risk criteria to be eligible for this services. Criteria are listed here. For example, if you have diabetes, or you have had a previous caesaran birth, you are not eligible,

These midwives will do ante-natal visits in your home. You would still attend hospital and your GP for some ante-natal visits.

When you go into labour, your midwife comes to you, and a second midwife is also required to attend. The midwife you have contracted will arrange this.

Your SECM will also attend you at home after your baby is born. One thing many people really like with this service is the continuity of care offered- as you see the same midwife throughout pregnany, labour and the early post partum visits.

See below for more information

Maternity Hospital Homebirth Service

Some maternity hospitals around the country offer a homebirth service. What this means is that midwifes who are employed by the hospital and who also attend births in the hospital will attend a birth at home. In order to avail of this option, you must meet ‘low risk’ criteria, and you must live within the hospital catchment area.

With this service, you attend the hospital or a community-midwifery clinic for ante-natal appointments.

Hospitals which currently offer this include the National Maternity Hospital - Holles St, Wexford Maternity Hospital and Waterford Hospital.

In Cork and Kerry, homebirth services are provided by self-employed community midwives. However if you find yourself in the situation here your care is transferred to the hospital during labour, your midwife can continue to support you during labour (this is a special agreement with and is not usually the case for transfer of care from the SECM to the hospital).

Private Services – Private Midwives Ireland

This is a private company offering home birth packages. Some of the self-employed community midwives also see clients through this company.

Some health insurance policies will cover the cost of a package. Packages appear to range from approx €5k to €9k. They also offer payment plans to spread the cost of the package.

ivate Midwives will often support a homebirth after previous caesarean birth (also known as HBAC) - which the other options do not support.

What if I can’t find a midwife in my area?

Unfortunately, not all areas of the country are equally served – and in some parts – it’s not really an option as there is no midwife in that area. This is the case where I am now based (Sligo/Leitrim) for example (I was living in Dublin when my son was born at home in 2017). So for many of my local clients, I am often in the unfortunate position of breaking the bad news to them that finding a midwife here in the northwest is almost impossible. At least for now – I really hope that changes in the future!

Sometimes, people find a midwife in another area and move temporarily to that area for the birth. This can be a good option if you have relatives living in the area, but with current rental costs, it's not feasible for many people.

As a next option, some hospitals including Sligo have a ‘home from home’ room which offers a birthing suite that has a pool which you can use during labour (though not necessarily water birth unless staff are specifically trained in this) and generally offers a less medicalized environment within the hospital. You can ask at your ante-natal appointments about whether this option is available to you in the hospital you’re attending.

People often hire a doula because they would like to stay home as long as possible in early labour, and/or have someone help to bring the hospital experience closer to a home birth experience. If this is something you'd like to know more about (and you're in my area - take a look at my packages here). You can also find a doula anywhere in the country through the Doula Association of Ireland.

Some more information:

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