Where’s the best place to have a baby?

Compared to new mothers like those in India and poorer countries (who tragically often loose babies shortly after birth), women in developed countries like Ireland are extremely fortunate. To some extent we have a choice as to where we would like to give birth and more importantly we are guaranteed expert antenatal and postnatal care.

Ireland’s recently published National Maternity Strategy commits to providing even more choice to women as to where they would like to give birth and the level of support they would like to receive.

The strategy proposes one model of care with three care pathways; Supported Care, Assisted Care and Specialised Care. According to the strategy across all pathways, care will be woman-centred and provided by a multidisciplinary team.

In the delivery room or operating theatre of a maternity hospital or unit attended by expert obstetricians, nurses and midwives; at home in your own bed with the help of the community midwife, in a birthing pool labouring by candlelight; wherever a woman chooses to give birth; once that choice is informed by best practice and is safe and appropriate for her and her baby, surely that is all that matters?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite a 44 per cent reduction in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2015 approximately 830 women still die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. The vast majority or 99 per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries.

The WHO also says that skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.

Save the Children’s 16th annual State of the World’s Mothers report (2015) contains the Mothers’ Index; which assesses the wellbeing of mothers and children in 179 countries worldwide.Using that data on women’s and children’s health, educational attainment, economic wellbeing and female political participation, the index shows which countries are the best for women to give birth and those in which they and their babies face the greatest hardships.

In the 2015 Mother’s Index Norway was the top country followed by Finland (2), Iceland (3), Denmark (4) and Sweden (5).  The other countries in the top 10 were the Netherlands (6), Spain (7), Germany (8), Australia (9) and Belgium (10).

The 11 nations at the bottom of the index were Somalia; which came last (179), DR Congo (178), The Central African Republic (177), Mali (176), Niger (175), Gambia (174), the Ivory Coast (173), Chad (172) and Guinea-Bissau (171) while Haiti and Sierra Leone were joint 170th.

According to the report, “the conditions for mothers and their children in the 11 bottom ranked countries are devastating”. On average in these countries, one woman in 30 dies from pregnancy-related causes, one child in eight dies before his or her fifth birthday, approximately seven out of 10 women are likely to suffer the loss of a child in their lifetime and children can expect to receive just eight years of formal education.

Where Did Ireland Rank ?

The index ranked Ireland 22 out of 179 countries; just above our nearest neighbour, the UK, which came in at number 24.

The Save the Children State of the World’s Mother’s Report ranked Norway as the top country and it was closely followed by a number of its Nordic neighbours. Scandinavian countries have consistently held the top spots in the Mother’s Index; Finland was the top country in 2014 followed by Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

One of the biggest differences seen in Norway is the generous maternity benefit. Mothers can chose to take 12 months of maternity leave at 80 per cent of their pay or 10 months at full pay. The mother must take the two weeks prior to the birth off work and the father must take the first two weeks post-birth, after that the leave can be shared any way the couple decides.

Before it closed as a maternity hospital in 2014 Mount Carmel was a private maternity hospital in South Co Dublin that had a reputation as being one of the most luxurious places in Ireland to have a baby.

There are 19 maternity hospitals in Ireland which provide very high-quality Maternity care, to both mothers and infants. According to the HSE Every woman who is pregnant and ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to maternity care under the Maternity and Infant Scheme.

The following Irish public hospitals provide Maternity Care services:

Coombe Women’s Hospital | National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street | Rotunda Hospital

South and South East
Cork University Maternity Hospital | Kerry General Hospital, Tralee | South Tipperary General Hospital | St Luke’s General Hospital Kilkenny | Waterford Regional Hospital | Wexford General Hospital

West and North West
Galway University Hospitals | Letterkenny General Hospital | Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar | Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe |Sligo General Hospital

Mid West
University Maternity Hospital, Limerick

North East
Cavan / Monaghan Hospital Group | Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar | Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

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