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The Difference Between a Doula and a Midwife

One of the most vital tasks during pregnancy is creating a birth plan. Although birth rarely unfolds according to our expectations, it’s essential to have a roadmap in place. Even more importantly, moms need to identify the team surrounding them to ensure a safe, healthy, and happy birth. Outside of your partner or a support person, a midwife and a doula may be just the person you need at your side to help advocate and uphold your wishes when possible. However, these two roles are not interchangeable.


A midwife undergoes extensive training, similar to a nurse, and is certified to care for mothers and newborns during pregnancy and childbirth. Midwives attend a midwifery program and often hold a master’s degree, although not always necessary. A doula is a trained companion used to support and guide a pregnant woman through all aspects of labor. Doulas are not trained to offer medical assistance, but still complete a doula certification program through DONA International.


Many women choose to deliver with a midwife rather than an OBGYN due to decreased risk of needing a c-section, lower rates of being induced, reduction in extreme tearing, and higher rates of breastfeeding. Although this is not the case for all women, the research stands behind midwives as a safe, albeit even safer, choice for women with a normal, low-risk pregnancy. 


Choosing a doula often occurs months before labor. Finding a companion who aligns with your birthing wishes can make labor and birth more pleasurable. Doulas are also available to support before birth and postpartum. Research shows that women who use a doula are less likely to need pain-relief medications and less likely to have a c-section. 


While a midwife and a doula may not be for everyone, it’s important all moms know the options available to support them through one of the greatest physical journeys their bodies may experience. Reach out to your doctor to find a list of references to find a midwife or doula who fits your needs.




Juliette is a published author and illustrator. She has contributed to numerous blogs and online magazines, writing on topics from love and relationships to wellness and motherhood. Juliette resides outside of Washington D.C. with her husband and son.

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