During your pregnancy, labour, and after the birth, you will meet a number of health professionals who will give the advice and care that you and your baby need. Your doctor or midwife will probably be the professionals you see most often; at most check-ups you may not necessarily see anyone other than a midwife. Usually you will need to speak to a consultant obstetrician only if you have a problem and (apart from the first check-up) to a paediatrician only if your baby has one.
Your doctor has a pivotal role during your pregnancy. He /she is also your first point of contact when you wish to find out about your pregnancy and your options. Usually, those looking after you and your baby will refer back to your doctor's initial contact and notes. Your doctor books the hospital or writes to the community midwife for you once you have decided where you wish to go to have your baby. Doctors sometimes have their own antenatal clinics or GP units. Some doctors are able to be involved with the delivery itself but if this is not feasible, he/she will visit you afterwards at home.
A midwife is trained in the speciality of childbirth and is responsible for providing care in normal pregnancies. She is recognised as an independent practitioner and may work within a hospital or in the community. Her role includes caring for you and your baby before, during and after the birth. If there should be any complication, it is the midwife's role to work alongside the obstetricians to provide the appropriate care. She is an excellent source of practical advice on pregnancy, birth and baby care as well as of more medical information.
This is a doctor who has trained as a specialist in the care of pregnant women and after many years and a wealth of experience will become a consultant obstetrician. The most senior doctors in the obstetrics department, the consultant, has the final say if there is any problems. His/her name will also appear on your personal notes. Consultants are experts in the complications of pregnancy, so you will probably have little contact with them if your pregnancy is problem free. However, you have a right to speak with your consultant at any stage of your pregnancy.
A doctor who specialises in the health of babies and children, a paediatrician attends all "abnormal" deliveries and multiple births, or when the baby is delivered with forceps, or by Caesarean section. All newborn babies are checked by a paediatrician before they go home.
If you become pregnant while in employment in Ireland, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment extends to all female employees in Ireland (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. You can also avail of additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Act 1994 and the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work including maternity leave.
You are entitled to 26 weeks' maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave.
Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 at least 2 weeks have to be taken before the end of the week of your baby's expected birth and at least 4 weeks after. You can decide how you would like to take the remaining weeks. Generally, employees take 2 weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after.
Your entitlement to pay during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit which is a Department of Social and Family Affairs payment you have sufficient PRSI contributions. However an employee's contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.