October 19, 2022


October 19, 2022

Doula vs. Midwife: What's the Difference?

When planning for your pregnancy and birth, you might wonder if you should seek the help of a doula or a midwife. Learn the difference between the two here.

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Doulas and Midwives may seem very similar due to their overlapping roles supporting birthing people and their families through the perinatal period with holistic care and guidance. Their humanistic attention draws many families seeking an unmedicated, physiological approach to birth. Still, you might be surprised that their individual roles are quite unique.

In this blog post, we'll break down the key differences and help you identify how they will fit into your birth team.

What is a doula?

A birth doula is a trained non-medical support person who walks beside you as a guide. They will provide you and your family with informational, emotional, and physical support through pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum. Your doula will help you identify your goals on your perinatal journey, understand the pros and cons of what is available to you, create your birth plan, and facilitate and advocate for your goals with your medical team.

Throughout your birth, your doula will be present to echo your wishes, offer encouragement, physical comfort, reminders for nourishment and hydration, and assistance with your breathing. For your partner, they bring active steps and encouragement for how they can best assist you.

What is a midwife?

A midwife is an experienced and trained health professional who will help you in a holistic medical role before, during, and after your birth. Most midwives serve low-risk pregnancies and parents who want to avoid or lower their need for medical interventions, pain medications, epidural, elective induction, and/or the need for surgical cesarean delivery.

Midwives fundamentally view birth as a standard and non-emergent life process. Because of this, they encourage parents to actively participate in their medical care and decisions. Many midwives have relationships with an OB who can provide additional assistance and counsel.

Your midwife can offer the following:

  1. Family planning and preconception support
  2. Prenatal exams and routine testing
  3. Birth plan facilitation
  4. Information about your diet, nutrition, and medications
  5. Education about your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
  6. Whole-person medical support during your labor
  7. Assistance during the delivery of your baby
  8. Referrals to an OBGYN or specialists if needed

Medical training and certifications

Doulas and Midwives both have training and certifications. Still, their education tracks are notably different from non-medical vs. medical support.

Certified Doula training programs cover topics such as basic childbirth education on the stages of labor and positions to guide you throughout birth, comfort measures for labor, newborn care and feeding, lactation support, advocacy and communication skills with your care provider, informed consent, and using research for evidence-based care. Doulas attend several births before receiving certification but are strictly non-medical support.

Certified Midwives (CMs) and Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are educated through graduate-level accredited programs by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Midwives must pass national certification exams administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) to receive classification as CNM or CM.

Certified Nurse Midwives are legally recognized to practice as healthcare professionals in every state in the US and Washington DC. Certified Midwives are legally recognized to practice in Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington DC.

Do I need one for my birth?

Both doulas and midwives offer incredible benefits to expecting families. You don't have to choose one or the other, as their roles are complementary! Suppose you're having a home birth or low intervention birth. In that case, you'll want to have at least a midwife to assist you. Their medical training and experience are vital if problems emerge.

Choosing a doula and midwife to join you on your journey can provide incredible value if you're seeking a low-intervention route through pregnancy and birth. Their support is linked to reduced rates of perinatal and postpartum depression and anxiety and an increase in positive feelings around birth experiences. They will gladly assist you in positively influencing your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Start your pregnancy journey with Anja Health

Here at Anja, we're huge fans and cheerleaders of all of the doulas and midwives in our incredible community and beyond.

Looking for the perfect provider to join your birth team? Join Better Birth by Anja Health to connect with a doula or midwife who is local to you!

Amelia Protiva

Certified Professional Doula

Amelia Protiva is a certified doula who believes in science and advocates for radically improving maternal health and well-being. Currently, Amelia is the Head of Community at Anja Health. Previously, she founded Hey Birth Bestie to help doulas work within the holistic intersection between science and the human experiences of birth and business. Amelia provides evidence-based, whole mother and baby perinatal care.
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