What is the Difference between a Midwife and Doula?

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

This is a question I get asked often when people hear that I had a Midwife AND a Doula at the births of Little Bear and Baby Roo.  When you are expecting a baby there are lots of choices to be made along the way, but one of the first you will make is who will care for you during your pregnancy.  In many areas women have the choice between having an Obstetrician (OB) or a Midwife – those are the 3 medically trained healthcare professions that can care for women for the duration of her pregnancy.  However people get a little more confused when it comes to the roles of a  Midwife and a Doula.  They are often spoken about but how exactly are they different?

what-is-the-difference-between-a-midwife-and-a-doula

Midwife

A midwife is a medically trained healthcare provider that has been trained to be an expert in low risk birth. Midwives go to school specifically for midwifery and learn both in class and through clinical based experience. Midwives in both Canada and the United States of America must hold a current certification from their governing bodies. Therefore, a midwife is a licensed medical professional that has a government based license and set scope of practice that they are held accountable for. That means that a midwife has clearly defined roles in prenatal care and birthing that they must be responsible for. Midwives are also able to prescribe certain medications and interventions. Midwives typically can be present at home births, in the hospital or a birthing centre, depending on where they have privileges.

The midwife is the person you will see for prenatal visits during your pregnancy, and who will help you deliver your baby.  Midwives often follow their patients for several weeks after delivery as well to do weight checks, and help with breastfeeding support if needed.

Doula

A doula is a birthing companion that is able to offer support and be there for a mom-to-be by providing intimate care to both a mother and baby.  A doula is able to provide information, advocate and make sure that a birthing mom is both physically and emotionally comfortable as possible during delivery.  I think of a doula like an amazing friend who is going to give your advice when you need it, answer all of your “stupid” questions without laughing, and has lots of experience of helping moms-to-be to achieve the delivery that they want.  A doula does NOT replace a healthcare professional like a midwife or an OB, they cannot do medical procedures or give you a prescription.  What a doula does do, is give you a support of someone who knows what to expect, can offer many different pain management strategies, and helps take the pressure off your partner from knowing “what to do”.   Most women who hire a doula recognize the benefits of having an extra companion who is trained and able to devote extra time and effort towards you and your baby.  Now you may be thinking “Do you really need a doula?“, check out my post on my thoughts on doulas and the role they play during labour.  What is the Difference between a Midwife and Doula?

Hopefully this helps clear up some of the midwife/doula confusion.  Both can work as a TEAM to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery of your little one.  You can also have a doula when you are being cared for by an OB as well. 

Are you planning to use a midwife or doula for your delivery?  Or did you for a past birth?

If you are looking for a Toronto Area Doula, Kristi from Helping Hands Doulas was amazing.

If your interested in learning more about Doula’s and Midwifery:

 

20 thoughts on “What is the Difference between a Midwife and Doula?”

  1. I wish I had known about Dula’s when I was pregnant with my kids. I am glad women have the opportunity for both.

  2. I had a Doula with my first baby. Even though I was high risk, she assured me that doulas work with all sorts of patients. It was a great experience for me and my DH as it helped us navigate the waters of pregnancy and birth that many first time parents have. For the next two babies, we skipped out as I was having repeat c-sections (by choice). My first c-section went swimmingly well, and I was right to assume we knew the drill by baby #3. So, I think it can depend on the type of births you have, if you want to carry on the Doula tradition or not. Definitely a great choice under the right circumstances and I don’t hesitate to recommend a Doula to couples.

  3. Elizabeth Matthiesen

    When I had my children many moons ago I went to hospitals for the births and it was always a midwife and an Obstetrician who were there for the actual birth.

  4. I had a midwife for both my children. I didn’t have a Doula, but I can totally see why I should have! A woman needs all the support she can get 🙂

  5. Huh! I honestly thought they were the same thing – interesting to know there is a big difference! I also didn’t know the extent of what a midwife was able to do – also very interesting 🙂

  6. I’ve always been curious about the differences between the two… Thank you for explaining this. Wish I had known about Doula’s when I needed them…

  7. I had a midwife with my 2nd and 3rd birth. My husband was very comfortable being my birth partner and rocked it each time. I’m grateful for his support.

  8. Since my husband and I are now trying to have kids, we have talked about all sorts of different routes, and we feel that having a doula is the right fit for us and our hospital birth. Thank you for explaining the difference between a doula and a midwife!

  9. I had a birth doula with my first, and it gave me such a feeling of security and confidence going into labour. I knew she would be a strong voice for my husband (who would be focusing on me, and was totally new to this) and me (who would be in the midst of labour – ’nuff said!) and she would advocate for what we wanted (like when I wanted to go to the bathroom instead of the bedpan, she gave me a little tip on what to say so the nurses would let me get up – I can’t even remember what it was, just that I didn’t have to use the bedpan!).

    Anyway, years later – with three children on my “resume” – I decided to become a postpartum doula and childbirth educator. I did that for a number of years, and I cannot tell you how privileged I felt to be able to help new parents with their precious new babies. It was a wonderful experience. When I started, doulas were still a relatively unknown group, but the concept is becoming more known and understood (in large part, due to people like you!).

    I don’t do it anymore – I’ve followed the kids as they’ve grown, and now play with LEGO with them! – but it is just an amazing thing – having a doula takes the beautiful experience of birth and life with a new baby, and just makes it a little bit easier, and a lot more pleasant!

  10. I really wish Doulas were around when I had my kids. My youngest daughter had her son in March of this year and had a Doula and we were so glad that she did! She loved the whole experience!

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