Women's Healthcare Topics

What Are the Differences between a Doula and Midwife?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Learn How a Midwife or Doula Can Help Enhance Your Natural Birth Experience

When you are expecting one of the decisions you will have to make is the type of healthcare provider you would like to attend to you during and after your pregnancy.

Many women opt for natural births, particularly with their second or subsequent children. Natural births can be performed in the home or in a medical care environment, with as few medical interventions as possible.

If you are considering having a natural birth, then chances are you are interested in learning more about midwifery and doula practices.

A midwife or a doula can tell you that there are many differences between a traditional or more medically managed birth than a natural childbirth either at home or in the hospital. Some of these differences are discussed in greater detail below.

A midwife might delivery your baby in your home, in a medical care facility or in a hospital. Accredited midwifes are certified and generally have the option of delivering in the home or at a hospital. Non-accredited midwives traditionally will delivery your baby within your home or theirs.

The primary difference between a midwife and an OB/GYN is the parents. It really depends on who you are most comfortable with. Some women prefer to seek the care of a well qualified physician, whereas others are more comfortable utilizing the services of a nurse/midwife.

Women have been birthing babies since the dawn of time. Usually women who have had more than one child are more comfortable using the services of an alternative health provider such as a midwife.


Learn the difference between a midwife and a doula.

Doulas are labor assistants. They have been credited with relaxing and soothing many moms to be during and after the labor process.

A doula might serve a variety of functions during the labor process, including working with you to reduce your stress level, and hopefully helping reduce the complications and problems associated with a high stress or anxious birth process. Most doulas will continually attend a mother during the birthing process.

Their services include but are not limited to the following:

  • Comfort techniques and physical care during the labor process.

  • Emotional support for the mother.

  • May act as labor coach.

  • May offer massage or aromatherapy during labor.

  • May help mother to be with breathing process and labor positions.

  • May offer meditation exercises.

  • Helps the mom to be create a birth plan.

A doula will not take the place of your husband during the birth process, however they will provide invaluable support to you and your partner should you need it during labor and delivery.

Deciding on the Right Caregiver for You

Deciding on the type of caregiver that is best for you depends on the type of birth experience you are looking for. Remember that it is just as possible to have a natural childbirth with an OB/GYN attending as it is with a midwife.

A doula can also work in conjunction with an OB/GYN to assist you during the birth process.

If you have a high risk pregnancy, your best bet might be to go with a traditional OB/GYN particularly if you require monitoring during the entire pregnancy. If however you have a low risk pregnancy, you might look into midwifery as an option when seeking out a health care provider.

What to Expect at Your HealthCare Providers Office

Your first visit to midwifery  practice will be similar to that of a traditional medical establishment.

You will go over your medical history, including any medical conditions you have or previous pregnancies.

You might also discuss your birth plan, and practice labor and delivery positions as well as relaxation techniques later in your pregnancy.

When selecting a practitioner, you should come to your first appointment armed with a number of questions, the same type of questions you might ask a prospective OB/GYN.

Still not sure what type of practitioner is right for you? Consider the following questions:

  • Are you comfortable with the idea of birthing in your home?

  • Do you want to use medication for pain relief during the labor process?

  • How important to you are interventions such as routine ultrasounds?

  • Are you willing to cover part of the costs incurred by delivery?

  • Do you prefer to deliver in privacy?

  • Do you prefer to have someone familiar at your side at all times during delivery?

Remember that the decision to select a healthcare provider is a personal one. Ultimately you will make the decision that is best for you and your baby. Selecting a midwife or doula can be a rewarding experience for you and your baby!


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