Every women who is pregnant and ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to maternity care under the Maternity and Infant Scheme. Ordinarily resident means you are living here, or you intend to remain living here for at least one year.
The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme provides an agreed programme of care to all expectant mothers who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. This service is provided by a family doctor (GP) of your choice and a hospital obstetrician. You are entitled to this service even if you do not have a medical card. Virtually all GPs have agreements with the Health Service Executive to provide these services; they do not have to be part of the GPs and medical cards system. The Scheme also provides for two post-natal visits to the general practitioner.
The combined medical services are provided by your family doctor (GP) and a hospital obstetrician.
On your first pregnancy the GP provides an initial examination, if possible before 12 weeks, and a further 5 examinations during the pregnancy, which are alternated with visits to the maternity unit/hospital. The schedule of visits may be changed by your GP and/or hospital obstetrician, depending on your individual situation. For susequent pregnancies you will have an initial examination and a further 6 examinations.
If you have a significant illness, e.g. diabetes or hypertension, you may have up to 5 additional visits to the GP.
Care for other illnesses which you may have at this time, but which are not related to your pregnancy, is not covered by the Scheme.
After the birth, the GP will examine the baby at 2 weeks and both mother and baby at 6 weeks.
Mothers are entitled to free in-patient and out-patient public hospital services in respect of the pregnancy and the birth and are not liable for any of the standard in-patient hospital charges.
Infant Care Services
The GP who attends the mother also provides care for the new-born baby; they will provide two developmental examinations free of charge at 2 weeks and 6 weeks following the birth.
The baby's entitlement to other free GP services depends on whether they have a medical card. This means that visits to the GP for any conditions related to the baby's health during this six week period or afterwards are not covered by the scheme unless the baby itself has a medical card.
If you have a medical card for yourself, you should apply for one for your baby as soon as you get the baby's PPS No. You can do this by phone to your Local Health Office.
The public health nurse will also visit the mother and baby at home during the first 6 weeks and this service is free of charge.
If the baby is born in a hospital, it is usual to carry out screening for metabolic disorders (the Guthrie or heel prick test). If the baby is born at home, the test may be carried out by the GP or in the out-patients department of a hospital. This test requires parental consent.
How to apply
Your GP should have application forms for the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which you and your GP complete together. Return the form to your Local Health Office.
You should contact the public health nurse at your local health centre to enquire about antenatal classes.