Doula v. Midwife: What's the Difference?

May 12, 2016

For many people, "doula" is still a fairly unknown and undefined word.  For those who have heard it, the question "isn't that like a midwife?" is often asked.

 

Doulas and midwives do have many things in common, but there are lots of distinctions that make their jobs unique, too.  In both the Miami Valley and Greater Springfield areas, these birth professionals are growing in demand and popularity, so for those who aren't in the know quite yet, we'd like to give you a quick breakdown of how doulas and midwives are different and similar.

 

 

1.  Training

 

Midwife

 

Depending on the specific credentials a midwife carries, she may have attended 2 to 5+ years of schooling and training to do her job.  Many midwives are also board-certified nurses.  Common credentials are direct-entry midwife, CNM (certified nurse midwife), and CPM (certified professional midwife).

 

Doula

 

Professional doulas acquire training and certification, starting by attending a weekend course. Certification through their training organization is available and encouraged, and once completed, the common credential seen is CD (certified doula).

 

 

2. Clinical Care

 

Midwife

 

Most people are familiar with the idea of a midwife doing the typical pregnancy and childbirth things: checking mother's blood pressure and other basic medical exams,  listening to baby's heart tones, and monitoring cervical dilation.

 

Midwives are experts in normal pregnancy and birth - that is, low-risk.  They often still utilize technology, but overall they most frequently work with families that require less medical attention and intervention.  If a pregnancy or labor becomes high-risk, midwives have the medical training to know when changing the course of care is necessary.

 

Doulas

 

While highly educated in her field, a doula provides no medical care whatsoever. She may know and understand a lot surrounding your pregnancy and birth, but she is not qualified to make any kind of diagnoses or prognosis, and has no authority to tell you what medical decisions you should make.

 

She can, however, offer you research-based information to help you make important choices, refer you to other local professionals that work outside her scope, and guide you through absolutely whatever situation you face - whether you fit into the low-risk or high-risk category. There is no limit on who she can support or work with.

 

 

3. Support

 

Possibly the greatest similarity between midwives and doulas is the more intimate and individualized care they can offer the families they partner with, both prenatally and during labor and delivery.

 

Midwife

 

For various reasons, midwives typically have a much smaller number of patients than the average OBGYN. Because of this, they have the privilege of longer appointments, increased face-to-face time during birth, and more availability overall.

 

They do, however, at the end of the day, still have other women in their practice to care for other than you. So if anyone else is having a baby at the same time as you, you can’t be guaranteed to have your midwife all to yourself at all times.  Plus, just as with OBGYN offices, if midwives are part of a practice, you may or may not not get the midwife you’re most hoping for on the big day.

 

Doula

 

Because a doula usually only takes a few clients per month, her clients can be certain she’s available just for them when their time comes. With you as her only priority, a doula will stay with you continuously, for every moment you want her there.  This continuity of care and assurance that you’re going to have the very person you hired with you is a great comfort to many families.

 

 

What other things do you wonder about midwives and doulas?  Did you use either one or both?  What were your favorite things about them?

 

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