Midwife vs. Doula: What’s the Difference?

Midwife vs. Doula: What’s the Difference?

Midwife vs. Doula: What’s the Difference?

When you’re pregnant, one of the most important decisions you can make is determining who will help you through the process of delivering your baby —
especially if this is your first time. Midwives and doulas are both a common choice, but making an informed decision may not be as easy as you think. Before the big day comes, it’s important to understand the key differences between midwives and doulas, so you can make the right choice for you and your baby.

Training, Education, and Certification

You may think that midwives and doulas are essentially the same. The fact is, however, that the function and training of midwives and doulas are quite different.

The role of the doula is to provide you with emotional support throughout the latter stages of pregnancy, during the birth process, and even in those critical days and weeks after the baby comes.

Doulas may receive formal certification training through an accredited institution, such as the International Childbirth Education Association, DONA International, or Childbirth International. However, exact training and certification guidelines can vary between countries, or even between different states in the U.S.

 Unlike doulas, midwives’ roles are principally medical and, as such, they are required to receive extensive training. They may have education and experience in the medical field, often holding at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related subject. Some may have completed graduate-level training. Depending on their educational background, midwives may be able to deliver babies vaginally, perform pelvic exams, provide prenatal care, order labor-inducing drugs, and resuscitate newborns.  

In the U.S., midwives receive their certifications through the North American Registry of Midwives and the American Midwifery Certification Board. Some midwives are also certified lactation consultants, which equips them with specialized knowledge to assist in the breastfeeding process.

Medical and Emotional Care

Both midwives and doulas play an essential role in the birth process. Midwives receive formal medical training and can provide prenatal medical care, in addition to overseeing a vaginal birth. They can also address certain post-delivery complications, including suturing tears or treating hemorrhaging.

Doulas, on the other hand, often function as an emotional supporter and advocate for new parents. During the birthing process, a labor doula can help with breathing and massage techniques, offer support and encouragement, and advocate on your and your baby’s behalf with your healthcare team.

A postpartum doula provides continued assistance as you recover from delivery and adjust to parenthood. In addition to helping care for the infant, doulas can provide support and instruction in self-care. This includes teaching strategies for addressing common postpartum conditions, such as hemorrhoids, sore nipples, and vaginal tearing.

Prenatal, Birth, and Postpartum Roles

Because midwives are trained primarily in the medical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, their key role is to ensure that you and your baby are healthy before, during, and after delivery.

Doulas seek to enhance your and your baby’s emotional well-being and overall quality of life during childbirth and in the days and weeks after. This includes ensuring that you have access to whatever resources you need, from online parental support groups tailored to your particular needs to psychological, medical, and financial resources available in the community.

Determining Which Is Right For You

It’s not always easy to decide which care providers will be right for you during this most precious and important time of your life. Whether you are choosing a doula or midwife, it’s important to schedule consultations with multiple professionals — and even multiple types of care professionals — before making your decision. This can give you a good feel not only for the person but also for your rapport with them. It’s also a good idea to ask for recommendations from trusted friends and family.

If you have special medical needs, then a midwife may be a good option. That does not mean, however, that you can’t also have a doula to lend emotional support during labor and hands-on experience in infant and self-care once the baby arrives.

The Takeaway

Having a baby is one of life’s greatest gifts, and the unique expertise of both doulas and midwives can help you enjoy the experience to the fullest. With the aid of a midwife, you can ensure you and your little one remain healthy and strong. Similarly, with a doula to guide you, you can protect your sense of peace, well-being, and confidence throughout this life-changing event.


image source: pixabay

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