There’s so many terms, techniques, and products to learn about in a few short months when a woman finds out she's pregnant. (Only nine months? How is it so long and yet not long enough to prepare for the rest of our life?) So the confusion surrounding doulas versus midwives and what services they provide — or even what type of births they’ll help with and who they’re for — can be overwhelming.
Some moms may have bookmarked files of every possible product they need to get ahold of before their delivery, that have yet to be reviewed, but at least in this small way, we can help.
Midwives and doulas aren’t mutually exclusive and, like everything else, the choice of which ones to hire is a personal one that has to do with what kind of delivery the mother wants. It’s all personal — there’s no set way to do it and that’s what’s equal parts gorgeous and nerve-racking! But if these two words have been on the minds of many (especially a doula, it sounds like a weird food), there’s no reason for that to continue because I'm about to break down the differences (and similarities) between doulas and midwives.
20 Midwives Are Trained Medical Professionals
Midwives often get confused for doctors, and while the two are extremely different, midwives have still gone through years of medical school. Midwives are often RNs (registered nurses) who have then completed a specialized master’s degree in midwifery.
Midwives are specialists who provide prenatal care, handle birth and delivery (unless there are complications, in which case an OB/GYN may be brought in — not because the midwife isn’t prepared to handle the unexpected, but for insurance and extra reinforcement).
They’ll also see you after your delivery. If you really prefer one, you could even have a single midwife deliver multiple babies through the years.
19 Doulas Are Trained To Provide Support
While doulas definitely know their craft, they simply aren’t medical professionals. It's not a crime- just a difference. Of course, you can’t just walk off the street and into a hospital and call yourself a doula. It’s way more complex than that because it’s, you know, a legitimate profession.
Becoming a doula involves certification and training. That said, the training isn’t the same as attending medical school. The education covers different issues because the professions handle different areas. You wouldn’t ask your doula to perform your C-Section, but they’ll definitely know about the best breathing patterns for staying comfortable while your contractions occur.
18 A Midwife Can Replace The Services Of Your OB/GYN
Your midwife is your medical professional. They’re not your overall doctor (don’t show up to your midwife with complaints about throwing out your back — they may be sympathetic and hear you out but there’s not much they can do). They know everything there is to know about women’s health issues. So while you may confer with an OB/GYN in addition to seeing a midwife, it’s not exactly necessary. A midwife can provide you with all the information and medical support to get through your pregnancy (and not just get through, but really thrive). You don't need to refer to them as "doctor," but they do a lot of the same tasks during birth.
17 A Doula Doesn't Replace A Midwife Or Obstetrician
Doulas are an amazing form of encouragement, but it's safe to meet with a medical professional on top of interviewing doulas. A doula becomes valued and essential when it comes to emotional support. Let's say you may have a midwife whose more than technically competent but not the warmest person. Or you may not even want emotional support from your midwife. While a personal bond with the person delivering your child is ideal, maybe you don’t need that level of personal relationship with your healthcare provider.
It’s entirely relative. Some expecting mothers may feel they receive enough emotional support from family and friends, while some may want a little more supplemental support.
16 Your Midwife Monitors You And Your Baby's Position
Midwives have all the magic of medicine on their side to—more or less see—inside a woman's body and monitor their unborn child’s position. Positioning is usually meant as which direction your baby is pointed in and how dilated a woman is. But that’s a completely different conversation... Back to the conversation we’re actually having: even if all of these topics are more or less related and it’s hard to stick to one. The point I'm trying to make is that a midwife knows what a mother should prepare for and a doula helps the mother prepare for it.
15 Your Doula Monitors Your Breathing And Comfort
If anyone on your birthing team is going to give you that amazing pep talk, it’s your doula. Sure, maybe you’ll get super lucky and find one of the (many) multi-talented midwives who could easily be an inspiring high school football coach with their ability to pump you up. The point is that your doula won’t be able to perform an ultrasound or tell you how many centimeters you’re dilated, but they will coach you through breathing techniques and patterns and monitor your posture or position. These small things will make the whole 'pushing out a baby thing' way easier.
14 A Midwife Can Be Present For A Home And Hospital Birth
Midwives aren’t these old-time figures bicycling through the turn of the century New York to deliver a baby in a tub. Sure, you can find midwives who will help you through a water birth but that’s not the point. Most midwives work in hospitals. Some might also specialize in home births and many do one or the other. The point is that midwives shouldn’t be confused with some antiquated half-remembered concept of what they used to do or (heaven forbid) nursemaids. Because some people think midwives nurse babies and that’s just not the case.
13 A Doula Can Also Perform In A Hospital Or A Home
Just because you’re thinking about hiring a doula doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to give birth in a kiddy pool in your living room, surrounded by burnt sage and crystals. Of course, you also might find your ideal doula and the most comfortable kiddy pool ever, but it seems to be a stereotype that's tough to shake. Expectant mothers can seek support with a doula and also pursue a totally traditional hospital birth. It's not one way or another — it’s a completely personalized process that has to do with what you want for yourself and your growing family.
12 A Midwife Reports To A MD
As aforementioned, midwives report to an MD or OB/GYN. This higher up may not meet with patients as often as the midwife (and thus not be as familiar with your unique case or feel as close personally), but they’re always on call to aid in any extenuating circumstances with your birth.
While you may not start your birth with your doctor or OBGYN present, they’re professionally awake at odd hours. So you may end your delivery with one at your side. However, many births (even ones that aren’t a totally smooth ride) are easily handled by an experienced midwife and their assistants.
11 Midwife Actually Translates To 'With Woman'
Sure, you probably won’t care about the roots of words when you’re pushing a baby out, but it’s interesting to know! The roots of “midwife” translate to “with women,” and that’s a pretty fair version of what the job description entails.
Midwives are medical professionals who work with women at all stages of life — but we’ll get to that later. Anyway, in the off chance that you can distract yourself with some etymology when you’re pushing that baby out, now you know a little bit more. Consider this your fun fact for the day.
10 Doula Has Greek Roots In The Word For 'Servant'
Look, don’t order your doula around too much and don’t ask them to do weird stuff like polishing the silver. There’s no way you’ll even use that family heirloom silverware after having a newborn anyway...
Doulas are probably used to some pretty sour moods since they accompany people through one of the most significant life stages, but that doesn’t mean they’re literally a servant. However, the roots of the name do make sense when you consider what the job involves; doulas exist to protect and care for you as you make a huge life change and in that way, they are a sort of emotional servant.
9 Both Can Help Decide What Kind Of Birth You Want To Have
We’ve talked a lot about the differences between doulas and midwives but let’s make a few things crystal clear: they’re both incredibly valuable resources of information.
Both positions have the best interests of you, your baby, and overall family at heart. A midwife or doula will talk expectant mothers through what kind of birth best fits them; from settling into the level of drugs they may need. It’s not like walking into a store where the employee is paid on commission. Neither has an agenda — they want what’s best for you.
8 Both Are Commonly Favored By Women Who Opt For Natural Births
While the style of your birth and the level of “naturalness” you opt for (for instance, do you really want to go drug-free or just not have the really hard stuff?) is totally up to you. It's natural that two specialized professions are sought out by women who have done the research to know what they want out of this experience. However, plenty of planning might go into something where a moment determines a huge change. In other words, you might think you want one kind of birth and then get into it and change your mind. And that’s absolutely okay — and a midwife and/or doula will help you make the best choice.
7 Both Midwives And Doulas Want The Experience To Be About YOU
It’s a point we keep coming back to, but it couldn’t be much more significant. This experience is about you. You may not have the same knowledge and education as professionals, but you know what you want for yourself and your child. While it’s essential to confer with professionals, what you want really matters. Never forget that. A doula or midwife should encourage your agency — not prioritizing what other family members or your partner want, but what you—the person doing this—wants. The respective job differences don’t matter in this regard. Midwives and doulas will be your biggest supporters.
6 Insurance May Cover Your Midwife Fees
If it’s not clear already, a midwife is a medical necessity. Sure, you may see an OB/GYN or MD instead, which is more than fine, however, you can’t go through your pregnancy without one of these medical professionals in the room. No one does that except wolves and foxes out in the wild and even they should really be meeting with a pro-bono veterinarian every few weeks.
Seeing a midwife is a basic human right and most insurances cover the expense considering it's an unavoidable necessity and a part of basic life.
5 You'll Pay Out Of Pocket For A Doula
Here’s the deal, if you submit a claim you may be able to acquire reimbursement for your doula. It’s totally possible. That said, there’s no standard policy for insurance companies to cover or even reimburse your doula. Common insurance companies don’t make any promises when it comes to doulas. While they may be an emotional necessity, hiring one isn’t necessarily a medical necessity. You may not want one because you’ve already gone through a pregnancy before or because you’d rather confide in a partner for the emotional support. Since it’s an option, receiving reimbursement is its own undertaking.
4 You'll Meet With A Midwife As Early As Possible
No midwife is going to make fun of an overachiever. It doesn’t matter that you’re in your first trimester or only a couple weeks into your pregnancy. It doesn’t even matter if you’re unsure of whether or not you’re definitely pregnant. Wait to tell your friends and family but don’t wait to tell your midwife. See them as soon as you can; there’s always some advice you could use or something you could be doing. Or at least some kind of vitamin you could be taking while you wait to find out why your period is late. The point is: don’t wait until you’re showing to see a midwife.
3 Midwives Can Be Involved As Soon As You're Thinking About Getting Pregnant
Honestly, why wait until you’re for sure pregnant to see your midwife? Your midwife could insert your birth control (think an IUD or a long-term hormonal insert like Nexplanon) and then, years later remove it and still be the same person to deliver your baby.
Midwives can almost do it all (well, close to it). You can meet with a midwife if you’re thinking about getting pregnant or if you think you are pregnant and are still unsure of what you want to do. Heck, you might see a midwife years after your period has stopped and menopause is on the rise — they’re there for all of it and it's awesome.
2 It's Safe To Start Interviewing Doulas In The Second Trimester
Since a doula provides emotional support, so you want to hire one before—or close to–when things begin to get real. Of course, that’s different for everyone, but a good rule of thumb is to begin interviewing doulas during the middle-to-end of your second trimester. You’re not totally overwhelmed with the work of preparing for your delivery at that time and there’s enough time to really get to know your doula before they’re by your side, pushing away. Of course, you can interview doulas sooner but this is generally recommended so as not to overspend.
1 A Midwife Or OB/GYN Is A Must; A Doula Is A Supplement To The Birthing Team!
Here’s the deal, midwives are a lot like vegetables and doulas are like dietary supplements. Let’s break that down: hopefully, you’ll get everything you need from your natural diet (or, on the other side of the metaphor, your midwife) but if you need additional nutrients (aka: help in whatever form), there are supplements. And by supplements, I mean doulas. Supplements don’t take the place of a balanced diet, of course. Some people choose to just eat vegetables (consult with midwives) and some feel the need to also take supplements (hire a doula). The point is that you stay healthy (not metaphorically — just overall).