What's the Difference Between Midwives and Doulas

At first glance, midwives and doulas look about the same. They both assist with childbirth, and they both provide extra attention for the mother. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll discover that there's a big difference in the services midwives and doulas provide. Knowing what you need and what they can do will help you make the best choice.

The Critical Difference
There are many things that midwives and doulas both do, such as offering support and assistance to a laboring woman. However, there are also some big differences. The most important distinction is that midwives deliver babies, and doulas do not. While a midwife's main focus is provide prenatal and postnatal care and to deliver your baby, a doula's main role is to keep you comfortable and happy. A doula will also offer support and assistance during labor, as well as after your birth. Some doulas will stay with you during the first few months of your baby's life to help you adjust to your new role as a parent. Most midwives end their services with a few postnatal care visits.

For Medical Training, Consider a Midwife
Midwives have extensive training in prenatal care, delivery and postpartum care. Some midwives have additional medical training as well. During your birth, your midwife will be focused on monitoring your baby and you, and making sure that your labor is progressing normally. She will be checking the dilation of your cervix, checking your baby's heart rate and delivering the baby. Although a midwife does offer support and will assist in helping you stay comfortable, the most important part of her job is to make sure that you and your baby are healthy and the birth goes smoothly. Nurse midwives have additional medical training and may be able to perform some medical procedures.

For Comfort, Choose a Doula
A doula is someone experienced in helping women cope with labor, birth and the postpartum period. A doula is generally not medically trained, and so she will not examine you or perform any medical or clinical tasks. She will, however, support you throughout your labor and birth, helping you to breathe, helping you to manage your pain and getting you anything you may need, such as water or a cold cloth for your brow. Because of her experience in helping many women labor, she has extensive knowledge on ways to make you more comfortable, and she may suggest changes in position, a massage, water, etc. A doula can also offer your partner or others supporting you during labor suggestions on how to help comfort you. Doulas are also available for a while after your birth to make sure that you are comfortable, that you have everything you need and to help you get started nursing.

Some women choose just a midwife, some a midwife with a doula and some a doctor with a doula. The added attention makes the delivery process more comfortable and secure for many women, and having the extra help can make hospital or birthing center deliveries go more smoothly.

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