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What's the Difference Between a Midwife and a Doula?

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Iv'e been asked this question often lately, and it is totally a valid question! When beginning to learn about the birth world and the wide range of options and professionals, it is easy to confuse the roles of the two. Although both provide support during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum, midwives and doulas take on very different roles.

A midwife:

- provides medical care throughout the prenatal period in a similar way a traditional OB would. They schedule clinical prenatal appointments throughout the pregnancy and take vitals, measure the baby's growth, administer and prescibe diagnosic testing, answer your questions, and much more! Often midwives have access to an ultrasound machine where they can check on the baby's growth and assess things like the gender, due date, size, position, and certain obvious genetic variations.

- provides medical care during the labor and birth of the baby. A midwife will deliver (or catch) your baby unless someone else in the family wants to, such as the mother, father, or partner.

-provides postpartum care both initially after birth and through periodic checkups. Midwives also provide essential medical care on the newborn including weighing, vitals, etc. (If you are giving birth in a hospital, often a baby nurse will be present to take on these roles while the midwife directly assists you).

A doula:

- is a professional trained in childbirth who provides many forms of non-medical support throughout pregancy, labor, birth, and postpartum.

- attends the birth and provides continuous support throughout the duration of the labor

- provides complete and nonjudgemental support emotionally, physically, and informationally. This could include affirmations or praise, a calm presence, or simply being there for any of the birthing person's needs. Physical support could mean anything from massage, counter pressure, soothing touch, providing aromatherapy options, controlling the room population, helping suggest and assist in positioning changes, and so much more. Informational support is equally important, as the doula knows extensively about the risks and benfits of certain interventions and can help you make an informed decision both before the labor and during the birth. A doula can also provide information on things like how to speed up the labor, slow down a labor, rotate a baby's postion, and so much more.

Essentially, the main difference between a midwife and a doula is that midwives provide medical care, and doulas fill in the gaps with non-medical support. Both professionals provide wholistic care and promote overall wellness for everyone involved in the birth, including the family.

Consider midwifery care and doula support in your next birth!

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