Here at Colorado Family Doula in Denver, I want to share some insight on the differences between a doula and midwife. A number of people think these two are the same thing. The reality is very different. It is helpful to understand what the difference is, especially if you are trying to figure out what you want and need as part of your birthing experience.
Doula Versus Midwife, Pregnancy & Birth
Both doulas and midwives provide women with support during the childbirth journey. Doulas generally offer emotional, physical and educational support throughout the pregnancy, in the labor and delivery room, and after the baby arrives.
Midwives are healthcare professionals and depending on the state, may offer a variety of other services, including gynecological exams, prenatal care, labor and delivery support, and more. State laws determine exactly what medical care midwives can provide and have specific licensing and certification requirements.
The roles undertaken during birth are one of the key differences between a doula and midwife. During birth, midwives are focused on the delivery of a healthy baby. While midwives support the mother’s birth experience, their main focus is the delivery and the baby. The focus for a doula is mainly the needs of the mother. Because of this difference, a number of mothers will choose to have both a midwife and a doula in the delivery room.
If a pregnancy is going to be difficult, high risk, or if there are expected complications, a doctor may also need to be involved in your care. Midwives are trained to distinguish when an obstetrician is necessary. This care can be in addition to the care you are receiving from your midwife. A number of doctors even have nurse-midwives on staff in their practices as well so you may be able to consult both within the same practice.
More about Doulas
A doula provides support, both physical and emotional, as well as information to pregnant women. Generally, doulas provide support before, during, and after a woman’s pregnancy. Doulas focus on expectant mothers and their needs. The goal is to help women have positive and empowering birth experiences.
While most doulas will be present at the birth, some doulas specialize in before birth (antepartum) care while others focus on postpartum care. A good number of doulas are available before, during, and after the birth, providing a more complete care package.
Many doulas assist with preparing a birth-plan to help women determine what kind of care and birth would be ideal and preferred. Additionally, doulas will help with breathing and relaxation techniques, birthing classes, and labor positions. Doulas are not generally not medically trained and cannot deliver babies. Additionally, doulas do not take the place of a women’s partner and frequently doulas will provide support to partners as well.
Doulas are often a stable presence throughout a pregnancy, labor, and delivery, as well as aftercare. Many women find this presence to be a comfort. The support doulas provide is in addition to the support of others in the delivery room.
When looking at the differences between a doula and midwife, it’s important to noe that doulas are not legally required to have medical training and there are no formal licensing requirements. Even though it is not legally required, many doulas will have training and certification by organizations that offer doula training programs. In fact, I am a certified labor birth doula and childbirth educator through CAPPA, and I take ongoing educational courses to ensure I’m able to offer my clients the best possible support.
Some women worry that a doula will take over the role of their partner or mother in the delivery room. Actually, a doula’s role is to provide guidance and support in addition to whomever you choose to be present. Generally, a doula helps to empower those who are in the birthing room to better support and help with the labor of the mother.
Additionally, some women assume doulas are not supportive of using various drugs for pain relief. In reality, a doula generally wants mothers to be able to make informed decisions and have support for whatever those choices may be, without judgment.
Doulas cannot take the place of a midwife or doctor. It is important to understand that a doula does not deliver your baby. That is the role or your midwife or doctor.
More about Midwives
Midwives are healthcare professionals. Depending on the state, midwives can perform pap smears, breast exams, and pelvic exams in addition to other gynecological care. Midwives are able to write prescriptions as well as provide information on everything from fertility to contraception. Additionally, midwives care for women during labor and delivery, in conjunction with a doula if preferred, and are also able to perform fetal monitoring.
Generally, midwives seek to minimize unnecessary interventions during labor and delivery, but this does not mean they do not administer medication. A midwife is qualified and has been medically trained to deliver babies. Additionally, midwives will refer women to obstetricians when it is necessary.
The AMCB (American Midwifery Certification Board) is the national certifying body for certified midwives and certified nurse-midwives. Many midwife education programs are offered at the graduate degree level. Some require a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing for entry into their program.
While both are involved in births, another of the differences between a doula and midwife is that midwives provide services at all stages of a woman’s life. Additionally, some people think that midwives are only used during homebirths, but midwives practice in a variety of locations: hospitals, clinics, birth centers, homes, and medical offices are among them. In fact, 95% of midwives work in hospitals. Additionally, midwives will also provide pain relief which is something that many people are surprised to learn.
It is helpful to understand the differences between a doula and midwife. If you are in need of doula services, contact me here at Colorado Family Doula in Denver. I am certified, trained, and have years of experience with a variety of births. I also offer online birth classes and a variety of doula packages to meet your needs. Let’s discuss how I can help you!