Pregnancy

I am a hospital floozy; I went semi-private on my first daughter, public on my son and private on my youngest daughter.

When I began my pregnancy journey, I was all signed up for the midwives scheme in which you are treated by the midwives during your pre-natal care, and are then released home quickly after having the baby in the hospital, and the midwives visit you at home. I was delighted with myself.

Then my daughter decided to breech herself.

I was devastated.

I was expelled from the midwives scheme for becoming a 'complicated pregnancy' and off I waddled to the hospital where they offered to turn her manually. I refused as I was afraid to go into early labour. Instead, I tried every trick in the book. I crawled around my apartment for hours every day, doing every exercise I could think of to try to encourage her to turn, I even tried moxibustion which is an ancient Chinese method to unbreech a baby, but to no avail. In short, nothing worked.  So apart from being terrified, I found myself also utterly confused about what level of care I should pick now that I was scheduled for a c-section.

These are the options I had:

1.Public

You don't have to pay anything towards the cost of having your baby. You don't get scanned as regularly; you don't see the same doctor or midwife each time, waiting times are traditionally longer and you are on a busier ward.

2. Semi-private

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If you choose to be a semi-private patient you will be seen by the same Obstetrician or specialist registrar for all your visits (other than when the Obstetrician is on leave or tending to an emergency.) Waiting times are supposed to be shorter. If you are admitted to hospital before labour, your care will be under the supervision of the Obstetrician on duty that day. You are entitled to be accommodated on a semi-private ward if there is a bed available which usually has between 2-5 beds in a room. Many charges for semi-private are covered under your health insurance, but you can expect to pay around €900 out of your own pocket, but this does vary between hospitals.

3. Private

You go to the same consultant Obstetrician and get scanned each time. You will be accommodated in a private room if there is a bed available. You can expect to pay between €3,500 to €5,000 euro, depending on the consultant's fees.  Some of these expenses you can claim back depending on your health insurance provider.

newborn baby lying on mother's hands symbolizing tenderness and care

Decisions, Decisions

I had always decided on public care as I am reasonably healthy and hoped to get out quickly to avoid the over-crowded wards I had been warned about. Now that I was scheduled for an operation, it added another layer to my uncertainty. Private wasn't an option at that stage so I opted for semi-private mostly because I was really scared, and felt that paying more might make me feel safer.

I was well into my pregnancy at this stage, so the continuity of care didn't make any difference to me really. The queues were quite long, and I still had to set aside most of the day for an appointment. After I had my baby, I was put in a ward with six women and one of the women had twins. Our bathroom was still a good shuffle down the corridor. The midwives are busy, and it is a squeeze, but I couldn't fault the care I received, especially as a first-time mum. It was very reassuring hearing what was going on behind all the other curtains; most mums were asking the same questions I wanted answers to, and hearing the midwives answers over and over again did help. It is very noisy but what do you expect with six teary mums and seven squealing babies in the same room!

Of course, it really is a personal choice, and many first-time mums favour the continuity of care and getting to know their doctor does give a certain reassurance.  However, for me, it was just not different enough from the public care to justify spending the money.

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I choose to go public on my second born who was also born by c-section. Again, it was busy but there was no discernable different between this and the first time.

Three years later, I had my third child, a daughter by c-section and I decided to opt for private care. With two toddlers at home, I felt I could justify the extra money if only to make sure I got sufficient sleep for the five days in my own room now that I was a weary old mum of three!

Admittedly, I did miss the chats with the other mums but sleep came first. It was a very big outlay but I knew it was my last child and I did feel it was an indulgence I could justify.

I had all my children in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street in Dublin,  so I can't speak for the level of care in any other hospital.

I now hope my experience can help you if you are struggling to make a decision, and we all know how pregnancy zaps those decision-making skills of ours!

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birth, pregnancy, maternity, hospital, semi-private