Figuring out the difference between a midwife and a doula can be tricky. We often hear them lumped together in the same sentence, and sometimes, they're even in the labor and delivery room at the same time. But when it comes down to it, what's the actual difference between a midwife and a doula?
A midwife is a certified nurse with special medical training to help care for mothers during pregnancy, labor, deliver, and eventually, childbirth. Midwives are professionals who may deliver within the walls of a hospital, home, or a birthing center. Many women choose to have a midwife if they're striving to have a natural childbirth with as little medical intervention as possible. And similar to obstetricians, midwives practice care for women before getting pregnant, during the pregnancy, and even after childbirth, too. Minimally, midwives earn a bachelor's degree and often earn an advanced degree from an accredited university. These midwives are called certified nurse-midwives, or CNMs. Certified nurse-midwives can practice midwifery in all 50 states.
Doulas, on the other hand, are not medical professionals. They do undergo specific training, but they're not certified to provide medical care like a midwife. Therefore, a doula works with your medical team while you're in labor — either a midwife or OB. However, just because they don't receive any medical training like midwives doesn't mean they aren't incredibly helpful. Doulas are known for providing immense emotional support for women throughout their pregnancy and during labor and delivery, too. Specifically, a doula can be beneficial to a patient if they want to learn breathing and relaxation techniques during labor.
Midwives and doulas are often confused because they're both known to help a woman whose goal is to have a natural childbirth. They can get you on track with things like nutrition, breastfeeding, postpartum recovery, mental health, and more. To figure out which option is best for you, do research in your area, and even interview a few of each. And just remember, just like an OB, the top priority of both a doula and a midwife is to always ensure a healthy baby and mother during delivery.