Information is power when it comes to pregnancy in Ireland

Pamela is a mother for four children ageing from 17 yrs old to 2 yrs old. She has used different maternity hospitals and services around the country and also has had a home birth. She talks about the different experiences she has had with the maternity services across Ireland.

I had my first child 17 years ago and I was very young myself, I had no choice but to be under a Consultant Lead Unit (CLU) in the Coombe Maternity Hospital because I was under 19 years of age. I had an early epidural and I was lead by what the consultants advised me to do. My second child I went to Hollis Street National Maternity Hospital and I availed of the Domino Scheme this is a mid wife lead scheme with a view to having a home birth but at 36 weeks my plans had to change because there was small complications and I needed medical intervention so I had to be in the hospital to give birth. I found this experience very traumatic, when I went into labour the delivery suite was understaffed and I was kept on the ward until I was about to give birth, then the staff were worried the baby was stuck and all of a sudden I went from having just a mid-wife with me to a team of seven different medical professionals in the room and nobody informed me of what was happening. I felt as if I was detached from what was happening to my body and totally dis empowered. What I also found hard in Hollis Street was the delivery units at the time had no en suite bathrooms so when you needed the bathroom you had to go on to the corridor and face strangers while trying to stay focused on labouring a child.

I then moved to Ennis in Clare and when I became pregnant on my third child I had no choice but to avail of a CLU in Limerick. The maternity services available to women in Ireland depend greatly on where you live in the country. I found this out very quickly that my choices we very limited living in a more rural area in many case women even further away from the hospital than I lived had to have planned inductions to ensure they can make it to the hospitals for the birth as there was not option of having a mid wife lead home birth as the service was not available in Co Clare.

When I became pregnant on the fourth child over two years ago I didn’t want to have a CLU for my maternity care and I found a self employed mid wife who could not give me the option of a mid wife lead birth in hospital but a home birth. Unfortunately there is a severe shortage of self employed midwives in Ireland due to the low standard of pay they receive from the HSE. It can be hard to get a mid wife in rural areas as they have to cover large areas and they cannot care for more four women due to give birth in the same month also you will take a chance on having as if a woman goes over her due date you may have to go to hospital as she will not be available. I choose a midwife and a home birth as the time saved from having to go for every appointment to Limerick would have been a four hour round trip and this was not feasible with my family, also all the research has shown that after having three births already it was safe to have a home birth.

Also in Limerick hospital the Anomaly scan is only carried out for women they deem at risk of fatal foetal abnormalities, this scan is carried out at 18–21 weeks. This scan looks for fatal foetal abnormalities and checks that all the babies’ major organs are functioning and growing. It is offered as standard in the United Kingdom. I paid for this scan privately on my last two pregnancies.

I may sound very negative about the maternity services in Ireland but this was the reality for me and the chances of having serious complications are very low but it is very important women find out as much information as possible to what’s available to them and in rural areas I found a lot of this was through local knowledge and word of mouth. The services have improved a lot since my first child 17 years ago but a lot more needs to be done. The maternity services are under such pressure that hospital staffs do not have a lot of time to explain and a lot of women just go with the hospital lead service but policy in Ireland does not mean best practice and it is important to know all of the options available to you.

Pam is an active member of AIMS Ireland which is a charity organisation for the improvement of maternity services in Ireland. www.aimsireland.ie

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