Like many European countries, the homebirth rate in Ireland is low. Whether the absence of a community midwifery service leads to the absence of choice and subsequent lack of demand for homebirth or whether the low numbers do reflect an actual lack of demand from women is not known.
As there is no national community midwifery service provided by the Health Service Executive, SECMs provide this service for women who choose to have a home birth. This has been the case since the 1970s when home birth all but disappeared.
Midwives are the experts in normal pregnancy, birth and newborn care. SECMs work in a distinct way. They provide continuity of care through the childbearing experience to women who engage their services. They are primarily self employed in this role and provide a 24 hour midwifery service. In an ideal situation midwifery partnerships are recommended but due to the small number of self employed community midwives and logistics this is not always possible. Since December 2013 as per the new MOU/Agreement it is necessary to plan to have a second midwife in attendance at all births.
All midwives within the CMA partake in a professional peer review process which recognises the philosophy, practice and community based environment within which they work. Additionally, annual statistics are forwarded to the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre (NPEC).