Many expectant mothers, all over the world, are facing the question of if home birth is best for them and their babies, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in the U.S., where 90 percent of births are in a hospital, the current health issues are pushing some to consider something they never really had before now. If you are considering a home birth or hospital, you also need to know about what a doula vs. a midwife means for your experience.
Doulas and midwives are not restricted to home childbirth, they can and do work in hospitals. However, in either case, with a traditional home or hospital delivery, both are extremely good options to have on your team.
Knowing what part each of these specialties, doula vs. midwife, play in the birth of your child allows you to make the best decision about which to choose for your prenatal care and delivery.
The Medical Professional: Midwife
The midwifery profession has been around for centuries. Midwives were perhaps the first professionals in labor and delivery. They have a rich history of offering mothers care and support during the process.
A midwife is a trained medical professional, according to Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology. Most midwives work in a hospital setting, though some assist in home births — you just have to find one willing to do so.
Midwives often focus on natural childbirth, which means they will be more than willing to allow you to try various positions, such as laboring on a birthing ball or use different approaches to your delivery.
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Some midwives may work in conjunction with a doctor. Regardless of whether a midwife works alone or as part of a team, he or she is typically focused on what you want and is very open to whatever plan you decide upon for your birth even if it includes medications.
The midwife guides you through the pregnancy and delivery by providing you care and education.
They can work with you all the way through your pregnancy and after the baby is born. A midwife will often also offer care for your baby after delivery.
Licensing and training
According to the American Pregnancy Association, in some states, a midwife must have a license.
State regulations vary, which might also affect the duties a midwife may have. Typically, they will have the ability to administer tests, give exams, and conduct an episiotomy.
There are a few different types of midwives. Some become a registered nurse first and then get additional midwifery training. Some have no formal training and learn through an apprenticeship. Others take training specifically in midwifery.
The Helper: Doula
A doula is not a medical professional. As you look at a doula vs. midwife, you will see this is the prime difference and has the greatest impact on the duties and level of care offered by each profession.
Doulas serve as a helper with the primary duty of assisting you in any way possible throughout labor and delivery. They may provide comfort, education, and guidance.
Doulas are generally there before the birth and during the birth with minimal interaction after the birth. Some do assist with breastfeeding, and most conduct a few after birth visits just to check in on you.
Natural childbirth is the aim when working with a doula. These professionals will provide you with emotional support and teach you non-medicated ways to relieve pain, such as using massage.
Doulas serve as advocates for mothers. They work to ensure that your wants and desires come first and foremost. They will work with others during the process but will always ensure your best interests are looked out for.
A doula is a great partner but will not push your partner out of the picture. Doulas do a great job of including family and ensuring everyone has a wonderful birthing experience.
What to Expect explains that there is no formal education required to become a doula. Although, some will become certified through the DONA International.
Certification does require education that covers labor, delivery, prenatal care, and the roles of a doula.
Compare and Contrast: Doula vs. Midwife
Now that you know a little about each profession, you can take a more in-depth look into a doula vs. midwife to see how they stack up against each other. This direct comparison will help you to see the distinct characteristics of each.
As mentioned, the most significant and most defining difference is that a midwife is a medical professional, whereas a doula is not.
All midwives have some type of training, and many states require them to obtain a license. There is no regulation of doulas.
Because of the medical professional designation, a midwife can offer medical intervention when needed, such as an episiotomy. Midwives also often work in conjunction with a doctor should the need arise for more intensive medical intervention.
A doula often works independent of the other medical staff, so you would have to arrange for a doctor to be available should you need medical intervention.
When looking at a doula vs. midwife, you are more likely to see the similarities because they have so many. In fact, they are quite similar professions in that they both offer you support through your pregnancy and during labor and delivery.
They also both like to focus more on natural childbirth methods with minimal medical intervention. Both professions act in your best interests and advocate for what you want and what is best for you.
The limitations of both professions are also similar in that neither can assist with a high-risk pregnancy unless working in conjunction with a doctor. They also cannot do surgical procedures, such as a caesarian section.
Is Home Birth Safe for Everyone?
According to the Mayo Clinic, many women choose planned home delivery. A major difference is that there isn’t pain management medication like you can get at the hospital. That is, you won’t be getting an epidural, or IV meds in your home. However, for normal deliveries, with healthy moms and fetuses, it’s a safe option.
There are several situations that preclude a home delivery. You should deliver in a hospital if any of these conditions apply to you:
- You are expecting a multiple birth (twins, etc)
- Your baby is in a position which stops a head-first birth
- You’ve previously had a C-section
Which Should You Choose?
After looking at a doula vs. midwife, you may wonder which you should choose. Let us say upfront that you can absolutely use both.
You are in complete control of putting together your birthing team. So, if you want to have both a doula and a midwife, then you can do that.
However, it is more common to choose one or the other since they offer such similar services. Your particular pregnancy situation will often help you make the choice.
A doula can be great if you want a more laidback experience with no medical intervention. A doula is also very nice if you need that extra support.
If you are a single mother or if your partner will not be able to be present at the birth, a doula can be an amazing support person and the right choice.
Do remember that a doula can also be part of a larger medical team. However, the other medical professionals will not really work with the doula, so he or she would become a secondary person on your care team who really just focuses on your emotional health and providing you support.
Making your choice
It is important that you consider all aspects of a doula vs. midwife when making your final decision. You want to be sure that whoever you choose to be a part of your birthing team will support you in the way you desire.
Both professions are well known for being compassionate and effective at what they do. It is difficult to go wrong with either choice.
But you should always conduct interviews and make sure that you talk to various individuals before settling on your final choice for a helper.
Doula vs. Midwife: The Choice Is Yours
Now you have the knowledge you need to compare a doula vs. midwife properly. That should help you make the important decision of who you want to be there when you bring your baby into this world.
It is not always a cut and dry decision, though. Even with the information, you may still be on the fence.
Just remember that a midwife is a medical professional. In many states, a midwife has to have formal training and a license. Also, midwives work great as part of a medical team.
A doula is more of a support person who may or may not have formal training. Doulas are not usually part of a medical team. However, they can still assist you if you wish to have a hospital birth.
Whatever choice you make between a doula vs. midwife, make sure that it is best for you and your baby. The right choice is the one that makes the most sense to you and that you feel completely comfortable with.