Becoming a parent

Introduction

Becoming a parent through birth, adoption or fostering is a major event in life. Family life in Ireland has changed significantly in the past few years and there are now many different types of parents and many different types of families.

If you are pregnant, your first step is to visit your family doctor (GP). Your doctor will confirm your pregnancy and you will receive important advice about your options and the health services available to you. If this is an unplanned pregnancy, My Options is a HSE freephone helpline that can provide you with information and support on all your options, including continued pregnancy supports and abortion services.

The Maternity and Infant Care Scheme gives care to all expectant mothers ordinarily resident in Ireland. This service is provided by a GP of your choice and a hospital obstetrician. You are entitled to this service even if you do not have a medical card or GP visit card. Most women in Ireland choose to give birth in hospital. You can read more about your antenatal care options, including home birth.

It is very important to look after your health after giving birth. Postnatal care is available for you and your baby. There are supports if you experience postnatal depression.

You can find out more about becoming a parent through adoption or fostering.

If you are an unmarried parent or will be parenting alone, you should read through our information on custody, access, inheritance and maintenance or legal guardianship.

Becoming a parent and your employment rights

The law in Ireland provides specific protection for pregnant employees. You are entitled to paid time-off work to attend any medical visits (also known as antenatal visits or appointments) associated with the pregnancy and to attend a certain number of antenatal classes.

You are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave, typically starting 2 weeks before your due date. You may also be entitled to Maternity Benefit if you have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions.

If you have become a parent through adoption, you can take adoptive leave from employment. If you have enough PRSI contributions you may qualify for Adoptive Benefit.

New parents (other than the mother of the child) are entitled to 2 weeks' paternity leave from employment or self-employment in the 6 months following the birth or adoption of a child. People on paternity leave may get Paternity Benefit if they have enough PRSI contributions.

Parent’s leave is a new statutory entitlement for parents. It aims to let working parents spend more time with their baby or adopted child during the first year. Each parent is entitled to 2 weeks of paid parent’s leave for a child born or adopted on or after 1 November 2019. Parent’s leave is available to both employees and people who are self-employed. Parent’s Benefit is paid while you are on parent’s leave if you have enough PRSI contributions.

When you return to work you may be able to take up to 26 weeks parental leave. Parental leave is unpaid. Generally, you must have been working for your employer for a year before you are entitled to take parental leave. Both parents can take parental leave.

Child Benefit is a monthly payment to the parents or guardians of children under 16 years of age. It can be paid up to age 18 for children who are in full-time education or training or who have a disability and cannot support themselves.

Miscarriage and stillbirth

If you have a miscarriage, stillbirth or your baby dies shortly after birth, there are a number of voluntary and community agencies that offer support. Women in Ireland who have a stillbirth are entitled to full maternity leave from employment.

Registration of birth

You must register the birth of your child within 3 months of the date of birth. You can also register a stillbirth. You can register a birth in the office of any Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths.

The law in Ireland makes presumptions about the paternity of children born to married couples. This means the husband is presumed by law to be the father of the child and he has automatic guardianship of that child unless the mother states otherwise. However, Section 88 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 amended the Status of Children Act 1987 so that the presumption that a woman’s husband is the father of the child no longer applies if the child is born more than 10 months after the couple separated.

Unmarried fathers are not automatical guardians of their own children and do not have an automatic right to have their names included on their children's birth certificates. Read about guardianship for unmarried fathers here.

The public health service incorporates care for women and children following a birth in Ireland. This includes the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, the public health nursing service, vaccinations and immunisations.

You can find out more about the social welfare system and support for families and children.

Childcare

Choosing the right care for your child can be a difficult decision. There is a wide range of childcare options including crèches, childminders and playgroups. Your choice will depend on what your needs are and what is available to you.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme was introduced in Ireland in 2010. EECE provides free early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age during the school year.

The new National Childcare Scheme (NCS) ‘wraps-around’ the ECCE scheme, and gives financial support towards the cost of childcare for hours spent outside of pre-school. Children must be attending a childcare provider (including childminders and school-age childcare services) who is registered with Tusla – the Child and Family Agency.

The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 set down the standards of health, safety and welfare that must be in place before childcare services can be provided. Read about the regulation of pre-school childcare places in Ireland here.

Extra supports for parents

Being a parent is not always easy and you may need extra support at certain times. If you are having difficulties, talk to your GP. Your GP will be able to refer you to supports and services if necessary.

Your public health nurse (PHN) can also give you reliable information and advice about your own and your family’s health. They can refer you to other sources of support in your local area, for example, local parenting groups or Family Resource Centres.

Tusla – the Child and Family Agency may put you in touch with a social worker if your family needs additional support. Social workers and family support workers work closely with parents and children to find out what your family’s needs are, and to develop a plan to meet those needs.

The HSE has further information for parents on mychild.ie including where you can get advice, services and support.

Page edited: 2 September 2019