Doulas Vs. Midwives – What Is The Difference?


Every family with a pregnant woman expects that at delivery, they have a healthy mother and child. The Doulas and the Midwives offer professional assistance and support to women during childbirth to ensure safe delivery. Although they are both parts of the childbirth process, they play two different and unique roles entirely.  

The doula pays more attention to the mother’s needs, helping her through the childbirth process. The Midwife, on the other hand, is looking at delivering a healthy baby. The services offered by both the doula and the Midwives differ from one to another. 

While some mother prefers the doula for the sake of the moral support, others go for the midwives to make sure their baby is coming into good hands. Some expectant mothers even prefer to go for both since they can afford to pay for their services. Continue reading this article as we take a close look at the doula and the midwife’s role during the childbirth process. 

Doulas Vs. Midwives

The common similarities between doulas and midwives are their dedication and support to the mother through pregnancy and childbirth. Discover the disparities between the two as you read the article further.  

Comparative Table Between The Doulas And The Midwives

  Name Doulas Midwives
Support Mother Child
Medical Experience None Have medical experience
Certification Not necessary Certified
Types Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Antenatal Doula, Full-spectrum Doula, Bereavement Doula Certified Midwife (CM), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
Etymology From the Ancient Greek Doule which means woman servant or female who helps Midwife means Woman in Middle English. However there now exist male midwives
Certification D.O.N.A.(Doulas of North America), Childbirth International, International Childbirth Education  AMCB( American Midwifery Certification Board),

American College of Nurse-Midwives. Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, North American Registry of Midwives

Cost Varies according to location and provider Varies according to location and provider

 

Support 

The doulas support the mother physically, emotionally, and mentally during the journey from pregnancy to motherhood. They provide so many support techniques such as massage, breathing exercises, relaxation, etc., to make the mother very comfortable. All these help make the childbirth experience less painful or fearful in some cases for the mother. 

The Midwives are so passionate about the baby’s safe delivery during virginal births with minor medical interventions. Although they care greatly about the mother, they encourage them to see the childbirth experience as an experience they should be actively involved in the birthing activities. 

Medical Experience

The doulas are well trained and are professional in doula care, but they don’t have medical experience to administer medication. They provide support and advice to the family in decision-making. A certified Nurse-Midwife has a medical background and can administer medication during the childbirth process. 

Certification

Many organizations specialize in the Doula care training until participants are well experienced in caring for a pregnant mother. They don’t have any form of licensing requirements, neither is there any governing body that supervises their certification. Nevertheless, there are some organizations that now train Doulas. 

There are Certified Nurse-midwives and professional midwives that help with the safe delivery of pregnant women. They have licensed midwives that must have passed the national board certification exam before practicing as a midwife. 

The contributions of both the doula and the midwife during the childbirth process cannot be undermined as they are essential. Nevertheless, a doula cannot take the place of a midwife as they play different roles during this process. It’s a personal decision as to which one you want to go for after identifying your need. Below is an individual review of the roles of the doulas and the midwives.

Doulas

The word doula is a Greek word for woman servant. The word’s meaning has given us an idea of what a doula is and what they do. They can be called the expectant mum’s helping hand as they help the mother through the childbirth process. Some relationship between the doula and the expectant mother wax stronger and goes beyond the delivery period

There are different types of doulas: Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Antenatal Doula, Full-spectrum Doula, and the Bereavement Doula.

Birth Doula

The Birth doula or labor doula as they are sometimes called are by the mother during childbirth. They give nonmedical supports like massaging the body, breathing technics and moving the body in different positions. They provide emotional support and make delivery less stressful and less painful. They are also an excellent support system to calm you in the case of an unplanned C-section. 

They relieve you of unnecessary anxieties and fears and give wellness advice.

Postpartum Doula

Postpartum doula as the name implies help new mother through the recovery process after delivery. They help care for the neonate and guiding the mother on how to breastfeed. They can also help the older siblings when the new birth is not the first child. 

Antenatal Doula 

They provide physical and emotional support for mothers during pregnancy only. 

Full Spectrum Doula

They support the mother from inception through the pregnancy, birth, delivery, and after birth. There are lots of hormonal changes during the pregnancy period, and it varies between mothers. So employing the service of a full spectrum doula is not a bad idea at all, depending on the mother’s need. 

Bereavement Doula

They give support to the family in a situation when they lose their baby. It can be very traumatic after nine months, and the mother lost her baby. During this emotional period, the doula helps prevent the mother from going into depression or harming herself.

Doula Training And Qualifications

A doula does not need to require any license or have a background in nursing to be one. They can come from any sphere of works ranging from psychology to counseling or any other knowledge. They can get their training by attending a couple of workshops and reading books about childbirth processes. 

Nonetheless, organizations like Childbirth International, Doulas of North America, and International Childbirth Education Association offer formal training for Doulas. Even though doulas do not perform medical or clinical work, they are highly trained to support expectant mothers during childbirth. 

Some Roles Of The Doula Include The Following

  1. They give Physical, emotional, and moral support to the pregnant mother 
  2. They work together with the expectant mother to plan the birth process, looking at possible medical concerns and how to go about ease of delivery
  3. They teach breathing and relaxation techniques used during labor
  4. Recommends food supplements, diet, and exercise
  5. They guide the mother and partner about child care and give tips on parent-child bonding
  6. They sometimes become closer to the mother and advise in the case of some other personal challenges

Above all, they are committed to the general nonmedical wellbeing of the mother.

Pros Of A Doula

  • Help mother manage pain during the childbirth process
  • Give good recommendations for healthcare choices
  • They help you to keep going, especially during difficult times
  • They are a great support system for mothers who opt for natural birth
  • Nonjudgmental, support, and companionship 

Cons Of A Doula

  • They can get in the way of a supportive partner
  • A doula that is not well trained can be a waste of money, especially the new one with little or no delivery experience.

Although the doula cannot take the midwife’s place, it is very significant to have them in your delivery team. Based on your needs, especially for those who don’t have anyone around to support them. Mothers who are going through a hard time during pregnancy can also engage a doula’s service to help them through this process. 

All of the above also depends on your budget, as doulas are great if you can afford them. But in the case where you can’t afford one, you don’t have to worry as it is not compulsory you get a doula during the childbirth process. 

Midwives

The first major and significant difference between a doula and a midwife is that a midwife is a trained medical professional. A midwife can be a male or female and must have undergone series of training, including passing the national board certification exam before practicing. Some are registered nurses, while others have a bachelor’s degree and sometimes master’s degree, including other specialized training. 

Their primary focus is to help with detecting complications, unmedicated birth, and of course, use emergency measures in the case of any difficulties. The midwives can work in settings like clinics, hospitals, and even at home. There are three types of Midwives based on their training and certifications in places like the United States.  

A Certified Midwife has a graduate degree and is certified by AMCB while a Certified Nurse-Midwife goes through the midwifery program.  Certified Nurse-Midwife gets accreditation from the Commission for Midwifery Education and AMCB. A Certified Professional Midwife does not require an academic degree; they are accredited by the North American Registry of Midwives.

Some Specific Role Of A Midwife

  1. Help expectant mothers decide on their birthing plans which include whether they want a virginal birth or C-section. 
  2. They help them determine what measures should be taken when medical concerns arise and if they’re going to use anesthesia or not.
  3. They provide prenatal care for the mother. 
  4. Carry out regular examination on the mother during the intrapartum period. 
  5. They give mothers labor-inducing medication when necessary.
  6. They help in monitoring the fetus with the use of electronic apparatus. 
  7. Provides tips on family planning, conception, disease prevention, contraception and, infertility
  8. Ordering Ultrasounds, OBGYNs consultation, and other medical needs, including medical tests.
  9. Help mother during labor and delivery to make sure baby is delivered safely, and mother has a great experience. 
  10. They perform episiotomy in the case of a big baby and also stitch up the tear. 
  11. Teach mothers how to breastfeed the baby, especially first-timers
  12. They provide the service of circumcision for baby boys.

Pros Of The Midwife

  • They are great at managing healthy mothers looking at birthing their baby normally. 
  • Provide extensive care for the mother before and after childbirth 
  • They help support the mother during the labor and delivery process
  • Help mothers make informed decisions although the childbirth process and even parenting.

Cons Of The Midwife 

  • They cannot carry out cesarean sections in the case when an emergency arises
  • Midwives cannot work with mothers with high-risk pregnancies.
  • Although they give support, it is not as deep as the doulas

The midwives are critical during the childbirth process as they give medical interventions when needed. They help manage any complications that may arise during delivery. Therefore it is highly recommended to get the service of one. 

How Much Do A Doula And Midwife Cost?

The costs of service for doulas and midwives may vary according to geographic location and the specific provider. Depending on the type of doula you want, they charge a flat fee for service. That is, they charge according to an agreed-upon number of prenatal visits, service during your labor and delivery, and at least one postpartum visit. 

Other services may be included in the package depending on the type of doula employed. A doula can charge $1,000 or more in urban regions and less in other areas. The service charge of a midwife also varies by location as the doula. 

On average, a midwife may charge $2,000, which covers all prenatal visits, delivery, and postpartum visits. However, midwives’ fees may be covered by some insurance policies if you have one, while some offer a payment plan to expectant mothers.

What Are The Qualities To Look Out For When Getting A Doula Or Midwife?

Nonjudgmental

How the doula or midwife interact with the expectant mother is very important. Pregnant mothers should lookout for someone who will advocate strongly for them, not judgmental, and very friendly. Someone who will not impose on the expectant mothers but instead respects their viewpoints and would suggest other better options. 

Experience

Experience is a significant factor to look out for; as the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. Doulas and midwives with years of delivery experience are usually the best. One can also get a recommendation from a friend or family member who has used a doula or midwife during their delivery process. The recommendation can help you find a well-equipped and experienced hand.

Qualifications

Using a qualified and well-trained doula or midwife is excellent for this sensitive delivery period. You can ask to see their certificate to be sure.

How Do I Choose Between The Doula And The Midwife?

As mentioned earlier, the place of the midwife cannot be taken by a doula. They both offer professional help to the expectant mother in unique ways during the process of childbirth. If you opt for a virginal birth or want your baby delivered at home, getting a midwife’s service is highly necessary. 

Their medical experience will help a great deal if any emergency arises. The midwife can also detect complications and prescribe analgesic or epidural during labor. They assess the fetus’s wellbeing regularly. 

While they offer medical assistant, they might not give you that emotional support like a doula will do. Depending on your need, a doula is recommended, especially when there are no other support forms around the expectant mother. Many pregnant women, especially first-timers, go through the emotional period and need the doula’s help to keep them going. 

Many doulas are great cheerleaders that make the journey through pregnancy and delivery very seamless. So the choice depends mainly on the need of the mother and the budget. If you can afford both, they will make a great team working together to bring your baby to birth. And if otherwise, while the midwife is highly necessary, the doula can be optional.

Can A Doula And Midwife Work Together?

A doula and a midwife will make a great team working together. The combination of both will help the expectant mother and the family make better-informed decisions that are not one-sided. When the midwife’s medical attention and intervention are not necessary, the doula can provide support to the mother before delivery. 

Furthermore, while the doula offers emotional and physical support, the midwife focuses on delivering the baby. The doula suggests different relaxation techniques and positions for labor while the midwife focuses on medical intervention. Moreover, the doula can help with extra tasks like getting more pillows when the midwife is busy with other things. 

Final Verdict

Doulas are very handy when it comes to coping with pain during childbirth, but a supportive partner can walk the mother through this. They can be very valuable; they are worth their weight in gold when you get a well-experienced one. However, unforeseen circumstances beyond the doula’s control need the midwives’ attention and sometimes doctors and other medical terms. Planning ahead for whose service will be required is essential; every mother’s joy is to have a healthy baby.

Keren Fisher

My name is Keren Fisher. I’m a Happy Mom of 3 Beautiful Girls. I am always online researching things to buy and activities for them to do. I have been blogging for the last 10 years

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