So, What’s the Difference between a Midwife and Doula?

As midwives and doulas, we get this question asked a LOT!

  “What does a midwife do that’s different than a doula anyways?”  “Do I need both?” “Do I need either?!”

Midwives and Doulas are very different but both work with pregnant families.  It can be confusing, especially when you turn towards the dictionary…

Definition of doula  

: a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical

comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth

Definition of midwife 

: a person who assists women in childbirth

So, really, what’s the difference you still ask?  That definition didn’t help at all!  Well, doulas do an amazing job at supporting pregnant and laboring families through physical comfort measures as well as emotional support.  They provide emotional and physical tools (calming visualizations, massage, breathing reminders, a calm presence, etc) that can help laboring people through the intense contractions and have support for their birth plan.  PNB doulas are trained through different teachings and have years of experience attending births.  They bring a lot of skill and compassion to all their doula families.  Our Portland Natural Birth doulas meet families in their homes at the end of their pregnancy to get to know them and help understand what the families’ needs and desires are for their upcoming birth.  Then, the doula is on-call for whenever the birth happens and goes with the birthing family to their pre-chosen birth place (home, hospital, birthing center) to continue supporting them.  Doulas are not medical professionals and support the families while their medical providers do the rest of the stuff…

Which brings us to midwives!  Midwives are medical providers that support birthing families wanting a more natural birth.  At Portland Natural Birth, we provide all your medical care for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum (through 6 weeks) for families wanting a homebirth.  There are some midwives that work in the hospital as well.  Midwives are trained in everything pregnancy and birth related and understand what a normal birth looks like.  Homebirth midwives are trained for those normal vaginal births as well as any emergencies that may arise and are either trained to take care of it at home (manage a hemorrhage, resuscitate a baby, give IV fluids in labor, etc) or know when to transport to a hospital swiftly.  For low risk people who want a homebirth, midwives can be their only medical provider they see their whole pregnancy.

“So, do I need a doula if I have a midwife?”

Maybe!  Now that you know the different responsibilities and jobs that midwives and doulas do, you know that homebirth midwives provide the medical care for birthing families and because they only work with one birthing person at a time they give their undivided attention to them.  But, it can still be nice to have a support person that is just there for your physical and emotional comfort.  Doulas are awesome at being with laboring families in that early labor time before a midwife comes to their home.  PNB midwives love working with our doulas and vice versa!



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