Maternal Fetal Medicine

Notes From Mama on Bedrest in Ireland

November 5th, 2010

Kris Edlund-Gibson is an American woman living in Ireland with her family. Like most women, Kris never expected to be put on bedrest during her pregnancy-but then again, she never expected to fall on her belly either! With Premature Rupture of her Membranes (PROM) Kris has been on hospital bed rest since 29 weeks. (she’s approximately 33 weeks now.) Listen to our podcast interview with Kris and hear her story in her own words.

Kris brings a unique perspective to bed rest, pregnancy and maternity care.  As an American, she is very well versed in our health care system. But now living in Ireland, she is being cared for under socialized medicine. Her health care team consists of her family physician, her obstetrician, midwives who work in the hospital in which she is a patient as well as a world renowned Maternal-Fetal medicine specialist Professor Fergal Malone. She has a posh private room that is cell phone and internet friendly, has been fed delicious food and many comforts for only, get this, $6400 USD! When Kris became pregnant she and her husband decided to purchase additional insurance-over and above what is customarily provided in Ireland for maternity care-because of her “advance age” (she’s 40). The investment has paid off more than she could have ever imagined.

Kris shares with us what she knows of the public health care system in Ireland and some of the benefits she has experienced as a result. The biggest benefit being that everyone has access to health care. People have the option to purchase additional health care, and when she became pregnant, her husband added her to his supplemental insurance policy through his employer. Because of her age, they also purchased the additional $6400 (USD) maternity policy, which entitles her to a private room and her own OB. Without the additional policy, she would not have a private room and would be tended to by the OB’s on call. Below are the benefits of the policy that Kris is entitled to under her husband’s insurance plan:

  • Full coverage for a private room and treatment in all public hospitals.

Mother and child benefits

Public hospitals Accommodation in a private room Full cover for up to 3 days
Private hospitals Allowance for accommodation Up to €3,400 for up to 3 days
Baby massage classes1 In the year of the birth Up to €100 per child
Paediatrician benefit1 Up to 1 visit Up to €60
Antenatal course1 In the year of the birth (midwifery led) Up to €75
Breastfeeding consultations1 Up to 2 visits (midwifery led) Up to €25 per visit
  • 1 An annual excess of €25 applies to these benefits.
  • You are also entitled to free coverage for your newborn baby until your next renewal date.

So to be clear

  • There is the standard public health insurance that everyone has and is entitled to
  • You can purchase additional policies, such as those Kris and her husband have under his employer and for which they pay an additional 600 Euros annually for Kris (Her husband’s employer pays for his policy)
  • Over and above this, Kris and her husband decided to purchase additional maternity coverage for 4500 Euros (approximately $6400 USD) in the event of complications. As a result of having this policy, Kris and her husband will incur no further medical bills related to her pregnancy or the birth of her son.

While some may say, “Yeah, but she’s paid 5000 Euros (about $7000). For anyone who has had enormous medical bills, we all know that 5000 Euros or $7000 is meager on the scheme of things. As we have previously said, in the US some families rack up hospital bills in the millions of dollars by the time they bring their babies home. As a result they have suffered tremendous financial burden including home foreclosure and bankruptcy. This is unheard of in Ireland and in most of Europe.

And let’s not forget maternity leave. For Kris, this is a non-issue as she is self employed. But Irish working mamas are entitled to 26 weeks paid leave with the option of taking another 16 weeks unpaid leave. According to Kris, most new mothers take between 4 and 6 months off after delivery.

Beyond the financial reliefs of this system, the quality and delivery of care is excellent. Obstetricians and midwives work together to care for the patients. The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Ireland has been providing maternity care services for hundreds of years, and has had an established Midwifery education program since 1773. Today, the hospital has a staff of well educated midwives-both men and women-who care for birthing mothers.  Kris admits that she has never attended a birth without a midwife present (attend the births of two babies here in the US with Midwives) and believes, as does the staff at Rotunda Hospital, that Midwives are an integral part of the health care team.

There is much that we here in the United states can learn from such a public health care system. While many Americans balk at the idea of socialized medicine and a more integral use of midwives, it is patently clear that the United States cannot continue with its $86 million dollar health care price tag, its 32% c-section rate, its loss of 2-3 women daily during child birth and the host of preventable pregnancy complications that plague the current maternity care system.