Doula & Midwife: What’s the difference?

Glenwood Springs Doula and Family Services

Doulas and midwives have very different roles when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. I like to say “doulas are the coachers and midwives are the catchers.”

A birth doula is a trained professional that offers emotional support, physical comfort techniques and positions, advocacy, and educational support during pregnancy, labor, and through the postpartum period. They are typically right by your side throughout your entire labor and birth. Supporting and offering assistance through every contraction and push. There are many benefits to working with a doula. Research shows that when you have continuous support during labor and childbirth, especially from a doula there is:

  • 39% decrease in the risk of a Cesarean
  • 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • Shorter labor by 41 minutes on average
  • 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five minute Apgar score
  • 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

Doula’s help to reduce your anxiety, increase confidence, increase movement, boost your self-esteem, and improve your relaxation, by offering comfort and reassurance. They do not preform any clinical tasks, that is a job for the midwife or OB.

A midwife is a health professional, caring for mothers and newborns during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and after the birth. A midwife has a woman centered approach and is more likely to take a holistic approach to your care – and to see birth as a normal process, intervening only when necessary and not routinely. The main difference between an obstetrician (OB) and a midwife is that, while midwives are trained to deal with women who are having normal, uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancies, OB’s are trained to handle any type of pregnancy including those with complications. We often see OB’s with a more medicalized approach to labor and birth.

Common duties for Midwives are:

  • examining and monitoring mothers
  • assessing care requirements and writing care plans
  • undertaking antenatal care in hospitals, homes and GP practices
  • carrying out screening tests
  • providing information, emotional support and reassurance to women and their partners
  • taking patient samples, pulses, temperatures and blood pressures
  • caring for and assisting women in labor
  • monitoring and administering medication, injections and intravenous infusions during labor
  • monitoring the baby during labor

In conclusion, I feel that both midwives and doulas are equally needed for families that are pregnant, looking for more support for their desired birth vision. “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

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