Doula vs. Midwife

A common misconception is that midwives and doulas are one in the same…


Quite simply, a midwife is a health care provider, while a doula is a birth support person. You may have a midwife without a doula, but you SHOULD NOT have a doula without a midwife (or other care provider). A midwife can be certified and licensed to perform midwifery in your state, meaning that there are standards of care. Doulas, however, can be trained and/or certified by various organizations, but there are no state licensing or requirements to be a doula.

A midwife is clinically trained and certified to help you deliver your baby. They can perform cervical checks, read fetal monitor strips, administer an IV, and most importantly, they have the knowledge to determine if something were to go wrong. They are health care providers, similar to nurses and doctors, who are equipped and trained to provide health care for you and your baby. A doula is not.

A doula is trained and/or certified to provide physical, emotional, and mental support to a laboring mom. They are support people and not health care providers. They will do things like massage, counter pressure, hand holding, affirming words, fetch ice or towels, etc. They know and understand birth, but do not have the clinical training to provide health care. A doula is used IN ADDITION to a health care provider. While your provider, especially in a hospital, may not always be readily available to provide support to you, your doula is there consistently to support you, however you may need. They should not offer medical advice or make medical decisions for you. They may offer educated advice on various procedures: how, why, and when they are performed. But ultimately, they should support you in any decision you make.

As with health care providers, it’s important to find a doula (or midwife, or OB/GYN…) that supports you and your beliefs.

You have the right to interview providers and doulas to determine if they suit you.

No one but yourself can decide which provider will give you the care that you desire or need.