What’s the Difference Between a Doula and a Midwife?

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Doulas and midwives are very similar. If you are expecting your first pregnancy, you have come across information about both in your research. Media resources report on midwives and doulas more frequently than ever before, but many times the information is presented inaccurately.   The confusion about midwives and doulas can leave you contemplating the need for a midwife, a doula, or both.  So, how are midwives and doulas the same and how are they different?

They work with pregnant women and new parents.

On the Treasure Coast,  you have many options.  These options include midwifery/OB care with or without support of a doula throughout your pregnancy. Midwifery/OB care ends approximately 6 weeks after you give birth. Birth doulas work with clients through labor and 2-3 hours after birth. Postpartum doula support can be retained for additional support during the 4th trimester and throughout the first year. Keep in mind that if you choose to have doula support, it remains very important that you also be under the care of a midwife, doctor, or obstetrician.

They believe that birth is a physiological process.

Midwives and doulas hold tight to the belief that birth is not inherently unsafe.  They believe the human body is designed to give birth, and that it is perfectly made to do so.

They take the time to listen to you.

When working with a midwife or a doula, you can expect to be heard. Your midwife and doula will listen for what you have to say, validate your feelings and experiences, and take the time to respond to you thoughtfully.

They are associated with unmedicated childbirth.

A common misconception is that working with a midwife or a doula means you can only have an unmedicated or “natural” birth. In reality, while under the care of a midwife who delivers in a hospital, you are able to choose pharmacological pain relief.  Your doula will also support you regardless of your birth choices. It is wholly your decision to choose the type of pain relief, or birth experience you desire.  She stands by your side for unmedicated birth, hypnosis guided birth, epidural, or cesarean section birth. Doulas and midwives attend home birth, birth center and hospital birth.



So, What is the Difference Between a Midwife and a Doula?

There is one significant difference between a midwife and a doula. Midwives provide medical care for you during pregnancy, birth, and the immediate postpartum period. Doulas provide you and your family with emotional, informational, and physical support during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period.

Doulas do not offer medical advice or provide medical examinations of any kind.

A midwife provides medical care much like a doctor. Many midwives also offer emotional support, information, and physical comfort during pregnancy and birth, but her priority will always be the physical health and safety of you and your baby.   Throughout the prenatal period, your midwife will order tests, perform internal examinations and cervical checks, take measurements, and perform clinical tasks.  She will manage your labor and catch your baby.  A doula does not perform clinical tasks. A doula can give you information about exams, but only a midwife or doctor can order the tests and carry out your clinical care.

Midwives do not usually provide face-to-face support during early labor.

Midwives check on clients in early labor and assess its progress. Often, a midwife does not stay with you until you are in active labor. If you desire support and comfort in early labor, a doula will be there as soon as you request their care. A doula will stay with you throughout your labor and birth experience.

When birth gets complicated, the roles of a midwife and a doula are clear.

Should complications arise while you are giving birth, your midwife will be focused on maintaining you and your baby’s physical health. Your doula will provide physical comfort, emotional support, and information. Doulas may explain what is happening, so you and your partner can better understand. Your doula can help you to remain calm and comfortable. If your midwife presents options that were not included your birth plan, your doula will provide evidenced based information and tools so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.



Can I have a doula and a midwife?

Yes!  Having both a doula and a midwife ensures your physical and emotional needs will be met when you give birth.   It is especially a great choice to have a doula if you prefer to be cared for by a doctor, or if your pregnancy becomes high risk and you require the care of a doctor.  Doulas support you regardless of your medical care provider preference.   For centuries, women have supported each other through birth. In the past, experienced laywomen helped with birth—midwifery is as old as humans are! Use of the word “doula” to describe someone who provides comfort, information, and support during pregnancy and birth is relatively new, however, the concept is as ancient as midwifery. By choosing to have both midwifery care and doula support, you will ensure your medical, physical, and emotional needs are met throughout your childbearing time.  If you’re giving birth in Martin County, St. Lucie County, Palm Beach or the surrounding areas and considering birth doula support, please contact Bell House Birth Services to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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  1. Can a doula also be a companion for people battling addictions as supportive and useful as in a domestic partner ship or a more complex relationship involving a 3 Rd party in a quitely descret mannaer

    1. Yes. Being a Doula means being a helper of women. Although we would need to be trained to know what to do in situations like this.

  2. Great information, but it is important to correct one thing. Midwives do not practice medicine and do not provide medical care. They provide healthcare or midwifery care.

  3. Do you offer training ? How do I get started being a doula . I love motivating and edifying women

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