What You Need To Know About Having A Baby In Ireland – Before You Conceive
Cue sweet lullaby music and narrator…
Are you planning a baby? Before you try to conceive it is advised to stop smoking, get fit and healthy take your folic acid." Images of cribs and smiling, sleeping babies). This is NOT that kind of article. We’re going to look at the nitty-gritty of preparing for a positive birth in Ireland before you conceive.
"One of the biggest decisions you'll ever make in pregnancy is where you'll give birth."
At the moment, you may not be able to see past the charting, the thermometers, OPKs etc but, for some of you reading this, any day now that second line is going to appear and you’re going to be catapulted in to the production line of Irish maternity services. Maybe you’ve already decided on an obstetrician or are hoping to have a homebirth. One of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in pregnancy is where you’ll give birth.
Lots of mums choose their hospital because of convenience (similarly some choose homebirth for convenience too as all of your care is in your home when it suits you). If you’re planning a hospital birth, it’s a good idea to look further than your own birth place. Over the years when I’ve asked mums why they chose a particular hospital, it was often because they were born there or it was handy for appointments. Of course, some mums have no choice and have to make do with their local maternity unit. Naturally you want the safest birth for you and your baby so let’s start with the ‘must-haves’ and work from there. If it’s your first baby then you may believe an obstetrician is the best option for you. However, research clearly shows that midwife-led care is associated with fewer Caesarean sections, fewer routine interventions and better outcomes for you and your baby.
See if your hospital has a midwife-led unit or Domino scheme so you can have the most appropriate care for you and your baby if you are both well. If you do choose private care your consultant may not make it to your birth (or may arrive in at the end) and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a private room. Lots of women choose private care for continuity so they get to see the same person every visit and avoid the penguin colony of public antenatal clinics but think of it as trading one form of discomfort for another (more interventions, inductions, Caesareans further on).
You can also go private with a midwife. Neighbourhood Midwives is a new service offering private antenatal and postnatal care at home/work whenever you choose. You still have your baby in hospital but you have one midwife looking after you and your bump for your pregnancy.
"Do your homework before you get your BFP."
Do some homework on your hospital of choice. When you’re TTCing, all you can think about it getting the baby IN and you may not have given much thought to getting the baby out (maybe you feel a Caesarean isn’t that big a deal). Although sections are still on the increase in Ireland, they can affect your baby’s health and yours in the long term… including making it more difficult to become pregnant the next time around and making your next pregnancy high-risk for you and your next baby.
What are the routine procedures in labour and are they based on best practice? You might find it shocking to find out that a lot of what happens to women in labour in Ireland is not medically necessary and even the HSE has a hard time getting the hospitals to follow guidelines. In Dublin alone there are approximately 30,000 babies born each year and around 30 delivery beds... what do you think that will mean for you and your baby?
What’s their episiotomy rate (surgical cut to your perineum)? Are babies stressed on a routine basis by over-use of synthetic hormones to speed up your labour? How does the hospital support physiological birth (the healthiest birth for you and your baby). Does your hospital have baths, pools to labour in? Do they encourage waterbirths, doulas? All the stuff you’ll be seeing on UK and US birth shows. Take a class independent of the hospital so you get the inside scoop on how birth is managed and what you can do to navigate the system. GentleBirth workshops are nationwide or take our homestudy course with ongoing support.
Mental and Physical Fitness
If you’re thinking you want to have a drug-free birth then start training early. That means training your mind and your body. A drug-free birth is a zen marathon - and if it’s important to you put the work in. You wouldn’t just decide to ‘have a go’ at the Dublin Marathon without any preparation, would you? It also means choosing a birth place where you’ll have a good shot at having a physiological birth (the hospital with the least amount of routine interventions in labour will be a big hint).
Breastfeeding support begins before your baby arrives. Get along to some mum and baby breastfeeding groups so you have a network of support to help you get everything going and to help you get over any speed bumps on the way. Don’t just expect it all to work perfectly on the first day. Breastfeeding in Ireland takes commitment and an ability to ignore all the well-meaning friends family who keep saying ‘he needs a bottle’… So that’s my cheat sheet – you’ve lots of big decisions to make right from that BPF. It’s overwhelming – but take it step by step now, while you have the luxury of time on your side.
For more information on having a positive birth in Ireland follow my posts here, on Facebook or pick up a copy of The Irish Better Birth Book for a more in-depth look at birth options.