One of the most common responses when people find out that I’m a doula is this: “Oh! That’s like a midwife, right?” And while I certainly don’t mind being compared to a midwife (because midwives rock), let me see if I can help clear up some misconceptions. When it comes to doula vs midwife, it’s a little bit like this song from VeggieTales. I apologize in advance if you get this stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Got that? So, if it doesn’t have a tail, it’s not a monkey, it’s an ape, right? Well, similarly, if it doesn’t have medical training, it’s not a midwife, it’s a doula. Let me explain. As a doula, I will not be providing any medical care. I do not have a medical degree. I leave things like checking baby’s heart beat, vaginal exams, and suturing to the midwife or doctor you’ve chosen to work with. My one and only focus is providing support and comfort to the birthing family.
So what does a doula do?
I support birthing families before, during, and after birth. I provide continuous physical, emotional, and educational support during all phases of labor and will be by your side and working with you the whole time. During our prenatal visits, we will talk about your hopes and wishes for the birth of your baby. I will help you come up with your ideal birth preferences and we will discuss any concerns or worries you may have. We will discuss what you can expect during the birthing process, comfort measures, birthing positions, and review the options that might be presented to you during your birth so that you can decide ahead of time how you feel about them. During the birth, I will help you ride the waves of your contractions by working with your breathing, applying counter pressure in all the right places, guiding you toward optimal positions and movements, reminding you of your goals and wishes, keeping you informed and educated during the whole process, and providing continuous and focused care to help you feel strong. To top it all off, I engage your partner and model ways that they can help you. I facilitate your connection to each other during this amazing time.
These are all the kinds of things that a lot of care providers would love to offer their clients, but most of them are just too busy, or maybe lack the kind of training and experience that doulas bring to the emotional side of things. This is why doulas and care providers make such a great team–together, we can cover all the bases and provide really stellar care. So, am I kind of like a midwife? Well, yes, I am intimately involved with birthing families and attending births is a big part of my job. However, as a doula, I focus on you and your experience and leave all the exams, deliveries, and medical care to your provider. So really, it’s not doula vs midwife, it’s doula PLUS midwife. We are both part of an ideal birth team.