How to organise a home birth in Ireland

Here is your guide to organising a home birth in Ireland. There are three main home birth services in Ireland all operating independently of each other. The first step is to assess which service you are eligible for. This is based on risk factors, geographic location and capacity to pay.

Assessing Eligibility to public home birth services based on your risk factors

Most women start their search with assessing their eligibility for the National Home Birth Scheme or a hospital home birth service as these are free public services. This involves assessing if you are excluded based on any risk factors you may have as a result of previous pregnancies or health issues arising in this pregnancy.

The  HSE s risk assessment is known as the Memorandum of Understanding between Self Employed Midwives and the HSE, and sets out which types of situations the HSE do not consider safe for birth at home. Hospitals which provide home birth services have their own risk criteria for eligibility for home birth (Yes the criteria are different!)

Identifying if there is a home birth service near you

If you fall within the acceptable criteria, then you will need to find out whether is a home birth service geographically near you. If there is then you can sign up for the services of a SECM or a hospital scheme.

You can contact HSE midwives or hospital home birth schemes directly. The numbers are available here

Assessing eligibility to private home birth services

If you do not fall within the acceptable criteria then you have a second option available to you and that is a private home birth service which uses different criteria to assess eligibility (yes different again!). If you do not fall within the private midwifery eligibility criteria then you are probably going to be a hospital client due to risk factors associated with your pregnancy.

If do fall within their criteria then you could be a home birth client depending on whether you can afford the service, and whether they have space for you. Private health insurance will cover some, if not all of the cost depending on your insurance plan. If you do not have private health insurance then you can pay up front yourself. Either way full payment will need to be made before you have your baby, and before you receive your health insurance rebate. If you transfer to hospital care very late in your pregnancy or in labour you may still be liable for the full cost of the private home birth service.

If there is no public home birth service near you then you will also  need to consider private services. If there is no private service near you then you will probably be a hospital client based on lack of accessibility to a service rather than due to risk factors.

You can contact the private midwifery company here

Assessing home birth service capacity

If there is a public home birth service near you, but they are booked up then you could consider the private service . If there is no private service near you or they cannot take you then you will probably be a hospital client due to limited home birth service provision.

Opting for Private care directly

Some women who have private health insurance want to opt directly for private care. There are advantages to this option as it does not fall within the HSE s remit. This means that the midwives who work within it have a greater autonomy over their practice and women are subject to less rigid rules and less stress during their pregnancies.

Find out about the MOU here