One of the great debates in pregnancy is the one over going private or public. It can be quite emotive with partners often differing on what they think is the best option. It’s expensive – and it’s not exactly all that clear what paying for Private Care gets you. I am not an expert on this area but have had a baby through the Private System and the Public system in Kerry so have outlined my experience below.

We opted to go Private with our first child in 2018 and Public with our second child in 2020.

In my first pregnancy I was totally confused by the system. My friends & sisters were pregnant too but they were scattered across the country and the processes and costs seemed to differ everywhere. Despite this we decided to go Private for peace of mind given it was our first pregnancy and we were going into the unknown. This was my experience.

Private with baby No.1 in 2018

Scans: Monthly Scans with Consultant.
Plus anomoly scan with a nurse in the hospital at 20 weeks.

Classes: One antenatal class booked by the nurses in my Consultants office. Class was in the hospital. We were shown where baby would be delivered and a midwife presented the antenatal class. I believe I would have been entitled to this class through the Public system too.

Pregnancy: I didn’t have a GP in Kerry so confirmed my pregnancy with a random (lovely) nurse in a doctors office in Killarney. She took my bloods and registered the pregnancy. She asked if I had a preference for private/public. We opted for Private. She then asked which consultant in the hospital I’d prefer. I hadn’t a clue who the consultants were so left that to fate.

I can’t remember if I ever saw a GP after that. I had monthly appointments with my Consultant which increased in frequency close to due date. Wait time of usually 1 – 2 hours at each of these appointments. There was paid parking at the hospital. I saw the same Consultant each time. At appointments the nurses checked urine sample & my weight & blood pressure. Then I went into consultant who did a scan. The Anomoly scan was done separately at 20 weeks by a nurse in the hospital (the same as through the public system). The nurse had some concerns so we were sent to Cork a couple of days later – everything was fine but if I had not been a Private patient we would have had to wait a couple of weeks longer for peace of mind.

Labour: on being admitted to hospital there is a form you sign confirming you are a private patient (info here). My consultant was away when I went into labour (2 weeks early) so did not attend. Labour didn’t progress so I was in hospital 1.5 nights before being induced. During this time I was in a busy Public ward. A consultant stopped at my bed once for about a minute. I was induced after about 36 hours in hospital. Also opted to have an epidural.

Birth: Midwifes in delivery suite were amazing. A consultant arrived for last 15-30 minutes of delivery but stood back and midwives delivered baby. We were then transferred to a private room with my own bathroom. I was in the private room for 4 nights (including the night baby arrived). I really did not enjoy being in hospital & requested to leave a number of times but was encouraged by nurses to stay. Given I was there so long the private room was good but I think some mums prefer to have the company and help of a ward.

Public Health Nurse visited us at home a good few times. It was great to have the support at home and gave peace of mind re babies weight gain as I was breastfeeding (and babies weight gain was a concern I had while in hospital).

Cost €2,800 for consultant + rooms for 5 full nights €3,459 (1 night in ward before being induced costing €259 + 4 nights in private room at €800 per night)

Paid consultant €2,800 in instalments throughout the pregnancy. If you have private insurance with maternity benefit it usually covers the consultants fees plus the price of a private room for 3 nights. But make sure to triple check the details with your insurer. You’ll see why below!!!

Insurance: My insurance didn’t cover consultants fees or a private room. I was aware I was not covered for my Consultant. After the birth I applied for tax relief on the €2,800 consultants fee*.

* In early pregnancy my insurance company advised me over the phone that a Private room was included in my policy. So I was shocked to receive a bill a few months after going home for €3,459 – the cost of the ward and the private room. The hospital billed my insurer who refused to pay and hospital then sent the bill to me. My insurer ultimately agreed to cover that cost of the private room after I complained in writing and they checked their phone records. Stress! As I said ….. I found it all very confusing.


Public with Baby 2 in 2020 – covid impacted this entire pregnancy.

Cost: Free

Classes: None due to covid. I watched the online ones on UHK website as a refresher.

Scans: I had one in the hospital at 14 weeks (should be 12 weeks but was late due to personal reasons) and then anomoly scan in hospital at 20 weeks. I opted to do the harmony scan at about 10 weeks too in the Scotia Clinic (c.€550). No further scans but could have paid for one in a private clinic if we really wanted to.

Pregnancy: My pregnancy was seen as low risk so my monthly appointments after the 12 week scan were with my GP who checked urine, blood pressure and listened to baby’s heartbeat. I had the same hospital consultant assigned as my first pregnancy but never saw them. From about 30 weeks I also started having appointments (monthly I think) in the outpatient building across from Tralee train station with a midwife. Wait times of about 15 minutes. Plenty of free parking. Midwife was lovely and very informative. She checked urine, weight, blood pressure, listened to heartbeat, took bloods at one appointment and gave lots of advice.

Labour: This labour was very fast so no time in hospital beforehand.

Birth: Midwifes delivered baby. Very straightforward delivery with no time for pain relief. After baby was born we were placed in a ward with one other lady. I stayed the night of the birth plus 1 more night.

Public Health nurse visited us at home once but baby was flying it so no further visits needed.

Verdict:

Despite reservations I have about the value of the Private system if forced to pick private or public for my first pregnancy again I would probably still go Private. For one reason only – it got us seen quicker in Cork when there was a potential issue. The peace of mind was worth the €2,800 Consultancy Fee.

I found the care in the Public System with my second child to be excellent and would have no hesitation going Public again. There were some elements of the Public System I actually preferred.

I still am not 100% clear on some aspects of Private vs Public. Eg if your insurance doesn’t cover maternity care and you wanted to go Private with a Consultant but not have a private room would they charge you for being in the Ward? They charged me for my night in the Public Ward before I had the baby but this would have been free if I was a Public patient. Considering they were effectively providing Credit I have some issues with the lack of transparency in the system. If anyone who is an expert on this process wants to write an article on the intricacies of Private vs Public maternity care then please get in touch.

Ultimately it’s a very personal choice and you need to make the decision based on what’s best for you. I’ve added links below with further information that might help make a decision.

Here’s what the HSE advises in relation to public, semi-private and private maternity care

See also here for general information on the general differences between Private & Public.

A good Irish Times article on the Private vs Public debate.