A consultorio familiare is a special health care center for women staffed by gynecologists and specialized nurses. Some of the centers also offer services for children.If you are covered by the Italian National Health Service – the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN) – you can go here for gynecological exams, health care during pregnancy, counseling during menopause and birth control. It’s not necessary to have a referral from your general practitioner. As a resident, you will receive a letter every three years from the state inviting you to make an appointment for a free pap test. More frequent pap tests are fee-based and you may have to insist to book the visit. Make an appointment for a pap test, breast or gynecological exam (all separate visits) at a consultorio familiare at any CUP (Centro Unico Prenotazioni) point in the city. The list of these can be found online on the AUSL website.
Many women opt to see a gynecologist outside of the SSN to have the same physician throughout their pregnancies. This kind of continuity is not guaranteed if you use a consultorio familiare.
Although you may not always see the same doctor, the consultori familiari are set up to follow a woman throughout her pregnancy and the doctors and obstetric nurses who work there are well-trained. Monthly check-ups are free. You will take precedence over others when reserving blood tests through the SSN and you will be able to have other tests at the consultorio familiare or else be given referrals for testing elsewhere. Some women find the public route quite convenient. It is definitely your least expensive option. You may feel more comfortable going the more costly private route, especially if you already have a good relationship with a gynecologist or if extras such as a private room or a video of your ultrasound are important to you.
Whether you choose private or public, you will give birth in one of the city’s public hospitals. Your doctor may not actually be there when the day arrives, as the obstetrician on duty handles births.
Both private organizations and public structures offer courses for expectant mothers and couples. Information about courses like Lamaze, water gymnastics and prenatal yoga is available at consultori familiari. Two organisations offering such courses are listed below.
Associazione Il Nido
via delle Borre 9
Il Nido was founded by obstetric nurses and provides prenatal courses and counseling with a special focus on natural childbirth. It can provide information for home births, the cost of which are 50% covered by the SSN. It also offers to new mothers instruction on nursing, weaning and child-development.
Associazione Spazio Interiore Ambiente (ASIA)
via Riva Reno 124
In addition to yoga and Aikido classes, ASIA offers special yoga classes for pregnant women, baby massage classes and post-partum courses.
Water births are available in Lugo, a town in the province of Ravenna about 45 minutes from Bologna, as well as in Porretta Terme, also a 45-minute drive. At the hospital in Bentivoglio, expectant mothers may labor in water.
TOURING THE HOSPITAL
You can tour the birthing unit prior to your due date. During this visit, you will be given a list of things to bring with you for your stay. Remember that public hospitals do not provide towels, nightgowns, slippers, baby clothes, or cutlery. Patients often share rooms.
PAIN MEDICATION DURING LABOUR
It is standard procedure to only administer epidurals by special advance request. The same holds true for other pain medications during labour. You must make preparations before you are admitted to the hospital.
The city has established special offices in the maternity wards where you can officially register your child’s birth. Take advantage of this service, as it’s a fast-track for entering the labyrinth of Italian paperwork. If you delay until after you come home from the hospital you may find that you face a long waiting period while papers are processed, during which time it will be difficult to do things like establish your baby’s residency. As soon as possible after the birth and establishing residency, sign your infant up for the SSN at your district’s anagrafe sanitaria (AUSL; the registry of the local health authority that administers the SSN in the province of Bologna).
If your baby was or will be born in your home country to an Italian parent and you plan to return to Italy to live, it is important that the Italian citizen notify the nearest Italian consulate in the country of the baby’s birth. It is then the consulate’s responsibility to notify the Ufficio Anagrafe (Registry Office) in the city or town where the Italian parent is a resident, in order to process the child’s Italian citizenship and other paperwork. If you have your baby outside of Italy, it is wise to request an apostille with the official birth certificate from the vital statistics department in your home country to bring back to Italy with you.