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Expat Health Insurance & Healthcare Guide to Ireland

Expats share their experiences with healthcare and expat health insurance in Ireland.

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7 Important Tips about Healthcare for Expats in Ireland

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Expats in Ireland share tips and advice about healthcare and health insurance in Ireland. Advice about Irish hospitals, having a baby in Ireland, medical care in rural areas of Ireland and more.

Written By

Betsy Burlingame, Expat Exchange
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Having a Baby in Letterkenny, Ireland

I thought the facilities were great ... I got a epidural and don't have any bad feed back about it . They were very nice they talked you thought everything that was happening.. I stay in hospital for 3 days .. Yes it was a very positive experience .. Lovely food and lovely staff ...

Having a Baby in Ballinsloe, Ireland

As a expat living outside of GaIway City, I had three options for my baby's birth. 1) University Hospital Galway (about 25-30 minute drive) 2) Castlebar In Mayo (about 25-30 minute drive) 3) Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinsloe (about a 45 minute drive). After some research, I discovered Portiuncula was rated as the best maternity hospital in the country and so it was definitely worth the extra 15 minutes in the car. My consultant was Dr. Naveed and he was WONDERFUL!! He gives a scan on every visit and was great for me as a first time mom, because each visit he took the time to explain everything to us. Upon my delivery I received the epidural with no problems. Later in the day, my contractions stopped and Dr. Naveed opted for an emergency c-section. I stayed in hospital for a total of five days after the surgery. Overall, the experience was wonderful. My only regret was that my c-section was ordered at 3:50 and my midwife commented that she knew at noon that I would have to have a c-section. When my baby was born, he was so swollen from the birth. I just wish my c-section had been ordered earlier (not for me, I had the epidural so I was having NO issues, but rather for the baby)

Having a Baby in Cork, Ireland

CUMH. I had only 2 ultrasound scans: one at 9 weeks and the other was because I had bright red breakthrough bleeding. I had horrible morning sickness and was never given anything for relief. I ended up spending majority of my pregnancy sleeping on the couch while my husband took care of me. I found bathing, brushing my teeth or dressing a real chore since I was very weak due to the morning sickness. The doctor felt that I did not need any medication since I did not work.

I also wanted to find out the sex of my baby and was denied.

I had my baby without any pain medications.~ natural. Well, it was an easy birth with only 2 hours of pushing. I heard another mother that was in labour in our room asking for pain medicaiton and the nurse seemed to push for the 'natural' birth option for her. I doubt she received any pain meds either.

We were paying into private health insurance but could not afford to pay for a private room. So, I had to share a room with 3 mothers/and 3 babies. The babies sleep in the room with you and if the babies are extremely colicky or the mother is having issues~ good luck trying to sleep! I did not sleep for two days while I was in the hospital and even requested that nurse give me a 'sleeping pill'. No joke! It was hell! I was so glad to go home and finally sleep. Yes, I had more rest being a first time mom at home.

I will say that I like the nurse that assisted me during the afternoon. She helped me with breastfeeding and was really nice.

The best gift~ was my little baby. So, it was all worth it in the end.

Having a Baby in Letterkenny, Ireland

I notice that most of the reports here are mostly negative, so I would like to share my good story. There is severe overcrowding in Dublin maternity units, which contributes to the problems many people have mentioned here. Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda (just north of Dublin) has a midwife led unit and is more progressive than Dublin hospitals. Also, don't miss Tracy Donegan's The Better Birth Book. She is a great resource for everything related to positive birth in Ireland! for the book and/or her gentle birth classes. I did her class and it was very helpful.

Anyway, I had my baby as a public patient in Letterkenny General Hospital and had a great experience there. I had combined care with my GP and the hospital clinic (midwives and consultants (obstetricians), you always see different ones). They don't see you in the hospital clinic until about 20 weeks. It's very low key. They don't weigh you or do a lot of tests they do in some other places. They do basic blood tests twice and quick ultrasound scans at a lot of the visits, but again nothing major. They don't tell you the sex of the baby, for example. They don't do the triple-test or nuchal fold test (for chromosomal abnormalities) either, but you can have these done privately in Dublin or Belfast if you want. Basically, they check the basics and concentrate a lot on asking you how you're feeling. I also went to antenatal classes at my local health centre. All of these were good to excellent. I rarely had to wait in the clinic and never for the GP.

With regards to the labour and birth, what I experienced was much more expectant management (natural) than active management (time limits, induction, oxytocin drip, etc.). I didn't want to be induced and the consultant was happy enough to let me go over 42 weeks (I had my baby before though). In the maternity unit, all the midwives were excellent and very supportive of my desire to have a natural birth. That said, they also offered the epidural, so if that's what you want, it seemed that you could get it on a Monday morning. You can also have gas and air and/or pethidine. They have birth balls and beanbags and you can move around and eat/drink, do basically whatever you want. All of the new labour suites (no more labouring with other women!) have private bathrooms, some with tubs, so ask if you want a tub. Everything was very clean. My midwife suggested positions and breathing techniques but was very relaxed. She was there the whole time, but very relaxed and let me be at peace mainly. There was never any question of episiotomy. You can deliver in the position of your choice. A young doctor was called for second-stage, but she just observed.

The only thing I didn't like was that you can only have one person with you at a time. I had my mother and husband alternate, but I didn't think it was ideal.

You stay in the labour suite with your baby for a little while. They do Apgar scores and dress the baby, but they don't wash him or anything. You get to hold him right away and they suggest you put him on the breast too. They also bring you toast and tea/coffee, which is super! You can have a shower there. Then you walk or roll (your choice) to the postnatal ward, where there can be up to 6 women and their babies. You have your own bed/table/chair separated by curtains from the others. This may sound insane, but it is OK, very fun to see the other babies and meet the mothers. I got your first meal in bed, and then you get up to go to the dining room with all the other mothers at meal times. Your baby stays with you all the time and you take care of him, but you have a lot of help from the midwives and even classes about how to change/bathe/calm baby. They seemed especially keen to help breastfeeding mothers and told me to ring the bell anytime I needed help. I did and they really came and were helpful every time. Women who had had a section obviously had meals brought to them and more help.

In terms of material comforts, it may be less than what you are used to. You have to bring your urine to the clinic and take it away too as they don't have disposal facilities. You bring in your own clothes and towels and sheets for the baby, many other things too. They give you a list. In the end it is more hygienic for you to have your own things and it saves money for the public health system. In the post-natal ward, you do share a bathroom and it is usually clean. There are always cleaners around trying to keep the place as clean as possible. Everyone is lovely and pleasant and treated me and baby with a lot of care and respect.

I had a normal delivery and stayed 3 nights but could have stayed more if I'd wanted to. After you go home the public health nurse comes out to your house to check on you and baby, a few times during the first week and once a week for 6 weeks or so. This is excellent as a lot of them are midwives and you can ask whatever questions you might have.

Having a Baby in Dublin, Ireland

The Coombe Hospital

I went as a public patient for my first baby. I received ante-natal care at Naas hospital, which has a program run by Coombe midwives. I will be going there again for my second child due in Dec 2008. I wouldn't know which other hospital to choose as I live in Co. Kildare. Coombe is the closest. A i had tested positive for GBS weeks earlier, I got a private birthing room as I'd have to be put on antibiotics. I was shocked to find the bathroom there dirty with bloody sanitary towels and blood on the toilets. No hurry to clean it up for me. The midwives were very good to me and checked in on me often. The doctor ended up using forceps and I got the dreadded episiostimy (which almost everyone whom I know has given birth here got, and have since found out it was invented here in the 1800s!!!). My sister who is a nurse in the USA says they massage they perineal area during labour in the US, which they do not do here. They cut it and don't think twice about using foreceps or a ventouse. I was allowed to start breastfeeding as soon as my son was born. The midwives seemed quite happy that I was confident about doing it. Then I was put into the public ward which was pretty terrible. There were 8 women and 8 babies in the room on the 1st night. I barely got any sleep and wanted to leave but couldn't as my baby had to receive the GBS antibiotics for 72 hours. The nures that came into check on us were either very helpful or stand-offish. One Filipino nurse tried to encourage me to give my baby a bottle of formula each night. She said he would sleep better and get more milk this way. She didn't seem to know much or care about breastfeeding. I finally gave her into one night and thats when I found out my oon had a milk allergy. Yippee!!! No more formula for him! Many Irish women though do not even attempt breastfeeding and the nurses are always going on about how you have a choice. Again, was shocked and sickened at the dirty bathrooms. Maybe 8 stalls in the bathroom and most toilets covered in blood and dirty sanitary napkins sitting on top of the bins. Nobody bothers to flush their toilet. Couldn't wait to get out of there and am dreading the next time I go. Had a big shock when I visited my sister in her room in the States after she had given birth. Room to herself, computer there, big window with view of the Rockies, and peaceful and quiet!

Having a Baby in Dundalk, Ireland

I had a home birth, which is not at all common in Ireland, but is starting to be more supported and welcomed. I used homeopathic remedies and had a natural birth, which is definitely the way to go! I had first blood tests and scan in the hospital as a "public" patient (free.)

Having a Baby in Dublin, Ireland

The Coombe Women's Hospital.


Staff attitudes from the 50s. This is the country that pioneered the medically managed model of birthcare, and they've not changed a lot since. Prenatal care is better and more personable for dairy cattle and don't even ask about postnatal care.

The only breastfeeding mothers I saw for the 5 day duration of my stay were foreign, like me. The hospital provided breastfeeding classes which were utterly laughable, and otherwise treated us like the lowest, most loathsome, stupid, and aggravating people in the ward. How *dare* we breastfeed and room in with our infants?

If you want birth-trauma, or a cesarean, you're in the right place. If you want a natural birth with personal attention, forget it.

Having a Baby in Dublin, Ireland

We gave birth in Mount Carmel Hospital, a very good facility even if it did feel like a throwback to the 50s. When we visited they did not tell us they would be doing major remodeling during the time our child was due. When b day came the Dr and staff were great, good service, very attentive. The drawback was major noise and pounding while they remodeled the very wing where newborns were and mothers were trying to rest.

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