What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
This is a question I get asked often when people hear that I had a Midwife AND a Doula at the births of Little Bear and Baby Roo. When you are expecting a baby there are lots of choices to be made along the way, but one of the first you will make is who will care for you during your pregnancy. In many areas women have the choice between having an Obstetrician (OB) or a Midwife – those are the 3 medically trained healthcare professions that can care for women for the duration of her pregnancy. However people get a little more confused when it comes to the roles of a Midwife and a Doula. They are often spoken about but how exactly are they different?
A midwife is a medically trained healthcare provider that has been trained to be an expert in low risk birth. Midwives go to school specifically for midwifery and learn both in class and through clinical based experience. Midwives in both Canada and the United States of America must hold a current certification from their governing bodies. Therefore, a midwife is a licensed medical professional that has a government based license and set scope of practice that they are held accountable for. That means that a midwife has clearly defined roles in prenatal care and birthing that they must be responsible for. Midwives are also able to prescribe certain medications and interventions. Midwives typically can be present at home births, in the hospital or a birthing centre, depending on where they have privileges.
The midwife is the person you will see for prenatal visits during your pregnancy, and who will help you deliver your baby. Midwives often follow their patients for several weeks after delivery as well to do weight checks, and help with breastfeeding support if needed.
A doula is a birthing companion that is able to offer support and be there for a mom-to-be by providing intimate care to both a mother and baby. A doula is able to provide information, advocate and make sure that a birthing mom is both physically and emotionally comfortable as possible during delivery. I think of a doula like an amazing friend who is going to give your advice when you need it, answer all of your “stupid” questions without laughing, and has lots of experience of helping moms-to-be to achieve the delivery that they want. A doula does NOT replace a healthcare professional like a midwife or an OB, they cannot do medical procedures or give you a prescription. What a doula does do, is give you a support of someone who knows what to expect, can offer many different pain management strategies, and helps take the pressure off your partner from knowing “what to do”. Most women who hire a doula recognize the benefits of having an extra companion who is trained and able to devote extra time and effort towards you and your baby. Now you may be thinking “Do you really need a doula?“, check out my post on my thoughts on doulas and the role they play during labour.
Hopefully this helps clear up some of the midwife/doula confusion. Both can work as a TEAM to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery of your little one. You can also have a doula when you are being cared for by an OB as well.
Are you planning to use a midwife or doula for your delivery? Or did you for a past birth?
If you are looking for a Toronto Area Doula, Kristi from Helping Hands Doulas was amazing.