Before diving into such an essential topic, let’s just go ahead and say it. Doulas and midwives are not the same thing. While both support a laboring mother when it comes time to birth her baby, each will be doing completely different things to care for her.
The idea that doulas and midwives are one in the same is a common misconception that unfortunately misguides women who are debating whether or not they need one, the other or both at their birth. This is because both are associated with natural, unmedicated births that take place at birth centers or outside of the home.
But did you know that some hospitals employ midwives? Yep, it’s true. But that doesn’t mean hiring a midwife at a hospital guarantees an intervention-free birth experience, just as hiring a midwife for a home birth doesn’t guarantee a 100% complication-free birth experience. The common denominator in all birth experiences is your ability to hire a doula to support your physical, emotional and comfort needs, whether you are at your home, in the hospital, or at a birth center.
Because a doula centers her efforts on providing non-medical support, she is able to maintain the positive, peaceful vibe of your birth space, while also making sure your hips are being squeezed and you have everything you need for the best experience possible. While she does this, a midwife can center her efforts on monitoring your cervix, blood pressure and baby’s heart rate.
By splitting tasks in this way, mom and baby’s safety are always at the forefront, as are mom’s comfort levels and coping abilities throughout the birth process. Isn’t that awesome? Women supporting women always is.
Another important thing to note is that your midwife will not be with you continuously throughout your labor from beginning to end. Just as with OBGYNs, a midwife won’t join you until you’re at least in active labor or transition, and their primary role is to ensure a safe delivery of your baby (and a safe immediate postpartum for mom). A doula on the other hand is prepared and equipped to be by your side providing support from beginning to end, and then some.
We asked a few of our local midwives what their favorite part of working alongside a doula is, and the thoughtful answers they gave us are shared below:
“As a midwife, I share the responsibility of emotionally supporting the client with the birth doula, and recognize the value of the doula-client relationship. Having a birth doula in attendance allows me to take care of clinical tasks and documentation, and also rest to conserve my energy for the actual birth, when I need to be on the top of my game and ready to respond to unexpected situations. Often times, a doula will support a client before heading to my birth center or before I arrive at their home. I feel at ease when my client is supported emotionally so I can clinically assess the situation and set up birth equipment.”
- Melissa Navarro, Owner/Midwife at GROW Midwifery in Ventura, CA
“Doulas are a vital part of the birth team providing support, encouragement and a sense of calm. As a midwife, doulas are an asset to me during a birth because I know that while I am providing the physical needs for mom and baby, I know the doula is providing the constant emotional support necessary.”
- Sue Turner, Owner/Midwife at Ventura Birth Center in Ventura, CA
"I have a deep admiration for doulas. These women work tirelessly along with the flow of labor supporting and encouraging a woman in her most vulnerable state. To have a doula present during labor and childbirth is a wonderful partnership of efforts."
- Robyn Pool, Owner/Midwife at PUSH Midwifery in Thousand Oaks, CA
"Women who serve other women through birth and postpartum are wonderful... Having a doula there to help with this is a blessing without measure."
- Jeanne Anderson, Owner/Midwife at Whole Hearts Midwifery in Newbury Park, CA