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Doulas and Midwives: What’s the Difference?

Apr 26, 2023 | Blog, Practitioner, Wellness | 0 comments

Expecting mothers often have a myriad of support staff to choose from. Two common choices are doulas and midwives. Doulas offer emotional and physical support, while midwives can provide medical assistance in health care settings. When deciding between a doula and a midwife, it is essential to understand the differences between them to determine what will best suit your needs.

A doula provides synchronized and continuous support from prenatal classes to postpartum care. They are trained professionals in childbirth and offer non-medical emotional, physical, and sometimes spiritual support to expecting parents. The primary role of a doula is to create a relaxed environment for the birth mother during childbirth, and to serve as her advocate. The doula works with the obstetric team and does not offer any medical assistance.

Research has found that doulas reduce the overall length of labor and decrease the use of medications and interventions such as cesarean deliveries. A study conducted in 2013 showed that births attended by doulas had:

– 15% decrease in the use of epidurals.

– 31% decrease in the likelihood of a cesarean delivery.

– 10% reduction in the utilization of opioid pain medication.

Doulas are equipped to offer pain management techniques such as massage, breathing, and movement while maintaining the comfort of the mother throughout the birthing process. Additionally, having a doula can reduce stress and anxiety for the mothers and increase their satisfaction with the birth experience. Post-partum doulas offer similar support after the birth of the baby, allowing new parents additional support that can significantly lessen the overwhelm of the newborn days.

Midwives, on the other hand, focus primarily on medically assisted births. A midwife is a healthcare provider who is trained and licensed to assist with childbirth outside the hospital setting if there are no complications. You can work with a midwife in birthing centers, private practice, home births, or hospital settings. Midwives may be licensed to offer additional medical interventions, but it is frequently in a more limited capacity than an obstetric provider. Midwives attend predominantly low-risk pregnancies, prenatal care, labor support, and support postpartum care.

Research indicates that working with midwives is associated with shorter hospital stays, less likelihood of medication and intervention during birth, and a reduction in intervention during labor. A study carried out in 2013 indicated that midwife-led care is related to:

– A 13% decrease in the likelihood of experiencing an epidural.

– A 16% decrease in the likelihood of an episiotomy.

– A 6% decrease in the likelihood of a cesarean delivery.

Like doulas, midwives offer comfort measures such as breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, and birth plan support. Midwives can also monitor and provide medical care that may be necessary during birth.

While they share some similarities, the two professions offer different services and roles in childbirth. Doulas offer emotional and physical support outside the medical aspect of childbirth while midwives offer medical assistance as trained healthcare providers.

Doulas and midwives offer invaluable support, both with unique roles that benefit many expecting parents. Their services can also be used in conjunction as a birthing team. Within the healthcare sector, collaborations between doulas and midwives can have an additional and positive effect on expecting parents’ birthing experience as reported in some researches.

It is important to recognize that every mother’s need is different, and as such each choice must fit the unique needs of each expecting mother. Looking for trusted and reputable sources and talking with health care providers or examining professional associations (like SoulBeing!) can help you make informed decisions on which one to pick. Pairing the right doula or midwife with expectations of each position will lead to a great birthing experience for parents and babies. By identifying the unique support staff that resonates with you, it is possible to bring insight, encouragement, and comfort to the journey of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.


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