what’s the difference between a midwife
and a doula?
Both doulas and midwives support people during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, so it’s unsurprising that many think their jobs are similar. But the truth is that doulas and midwives actually have entirely different skillsets and training. Here’s what you should know about the differences between these types of professionals:
A midwife is a care provider who assists low-risk pregnant people and their babies through delivery. They deliver babies in a variety of settings, including hospitals, birth centers, and home births. Midwives have lower rates of intervention during childbirth, like lower rates of cesarean birth and fewer episiotomies, and they tend to practice the Midwives Model of Care, which posits that pregnancy and birth are a normal and healthy part of life and that medical intervention should be used only as needed. Midwives are trained to recognize when medical intervention is necessary. They work in tandem with an obstetrician, a surgeon who is able to deal with the more severe clinical complications of labor.
According to a recent study of 23,000 low-risk women who gave birth in a hospital, using a midwife lowered the Cesarean risk by 30% for first-time parents and 40% for second-time parents.
A doula is a person trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to laboring people (and, if applicable, their partners). Doulas help expecting families to navigate their way through the process of labor and delivery.
Doulas are known to significantly improve how parents perceive and experience their birth. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the continual presence of a doula can be highly effective to improve birth outcomes.
Can I have a midwife and a doula?
Absolutely! Since doulas and midwives offer different services, many people choose to have both a midwife and a doula support their birthing process. Your midwife will be your healthcare provider, will deliver your baby, and will make sure you are safe in the immediate hours and days postpartum. Your doula will be your personal coach and can fully attend to your emotional and physical needs. Doulas often come earlier in labor to support the laboring parent and their partner before the midwife arrives, as well.
As you can see, doulas and midwives have critically different roles, but can make a great team! You don’t have to do this alone.