Skip to main content

Doula vs. midwife: What’s the difference?

What do midwives and doulas do?

Woman excited at pregnancy test
David Prado Perucha / Shutterstock

Finding out you’re pregnant is an exciting time, but also one that comes with lots of decisions. For many, that’s deciding whether to use a midwife or a doula throughout the pregnancy and labor. Individuals who are hoping for a drug-free delivery often prefer the services of a midwife or a doula; however, many don’t know the differences between the two. While both these professions aid those through the labor process, their roles are actually quite different. Keep reading to decipher this: doula vs. midwife.

What’s a midwife?

Pregnant woman cradling baby bump
JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images

One of the biggest differences between midwives and doulas is that midwives are certified healthcare providers trained in obstetric and gynecological services. According to The Cleveland Clinic, midwives are “experts in uncomplicated OB/GYN care.” Because midwives tend to prefer a more natural, unmedicated, and holistic approach to childbirth they are often favored by those looking for that in their childbirth experience.

There are different levels of certification for midwives, ranging from certified professional midwives who have completed some coursework in midwifery, to certified midwives who have their master’s degree in midwifery (but not their nursing degree) and certified nurse midwives who have their graduate degree in midwifery and have completed nursing school.

What’s a doula?

A pregnant person, sitting in profile, holding a smartphone.
Syda Productions / Adobe Stock

A doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to their client before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help them achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”

Many classify a doula as a childbirth coach and someone who advocates for the individual having the baby. They aren’t medical professionals, and therefore, they don’t aid in delivering the baby or providing any medical care. Their main role is to ensure that the individual who is laboring is calm and comfortable and that their birth plan is being followed.

What are the main differences between the two?

Pregnant woman relaxing on a couch with her laptop
Yan Krukau / Pexels

While midwives and doulas both tend to be chosen by those who are looking for a more natural, drug-free childbirth experience, often in their home or birthing center as opposed to a hospital surrounding, there are some key differences. Because midwives are medical professionals, they can perform health check-ups throughout pregnancy and are responsible for routine monitoring throughout the pregnancy. Many midwives (depending on their certification) will work alongside obstetricians and can deliver in a hospital.

Doulas work to ensure the comfort of the pregnant person and their partner and advocate for them throughout the birthing process. “Many women hire doulas if they’re trying to have an unmedicated birth,” Natalia Richey, interim chief midwife in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to the Harvard Medical School. “Doulas are really good at knowing what techniques — such as walking, showering, massage, or aromatherapy — can help a woman through the pain. It’s like having a coach.”

Choosing a midwife, doula or OB/GYN (or combination) is a personal decision and one that may evolve as your pregnancy progresses. Knowing your options and what each professional can do for you can help you make an educated decision.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelli Catana
Kelli is a freelance writer who has covered the world of entertainment, pop culture, parenting, and lifestyle for various…
The top cowboy and Western baby names that are riding high
Here’s some inspiration when naming baby if you’re a fan of all things Western
Baby boy wearing a blue knitted cap

There's so much to be excited about when it comes to having a baby, but parents-to-be often spend quite a bit of time agonizing over the perfect name. There is a lot of pressure to choose the ideal name for your little one, which may be why Western baby names are riding back to the forefront.

Namerology creator Lauren Wattenberg is all about names and predicts cowboy baby names will definitely be something to climb in the saddle for in the coming years. Wattenberg feels shows like the popular Western drama Yellowstone have brought cowboy names in from the range. Of course, Western baby names have never really ridden into the sunset. Dakota is a gender-neutral Western baby name that became prevalent in the 90s.

Read more
Is Unisom safe during pregnancy? Here’s what the experts say
What sleep aids are safe for pregnant people?
Pregnant woman using contraction timer app

Getting lots of sleep when pregnant is important, but that's often easier said than done. Growing a baby is serious work and can result in less-than-ideal sleeping patterns. Whether it's morning sickness, heartburn, muscle and ligament pain, or the general discomfort that comes with an ever-changing pregnant body, there always seems to be something disrupting your sleep.

Many people are used to using over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids when not pregnant, but are products like Unisom safe during pregnancy? We're here to help you make an informed decision about Unisom pregnancy use on how to get a good night's sleep.

Read more
Is Theraflu safe for breastfeeding moms? Here’s what you need to know
Find out if cold remedies are safe when breastfeeding
Woman kissing her sleeping baby

Breastfeeding parents have to be just as diligent about the medications they take as they were when they were pregnant. It can be a little confusing for any parent to know what's safe to take while breastfeeding, especially when a particularly bad case of the flu hits or they pick up a nasty virus. If this happens and you're breastfeeding, you're surely eager to find something that will help you feel better.

Sometimes, nursing moms need cold medicine. Theraflu is a safe medication for common flu symptoms like low fever, cough, runny nose, and muscle soreness, however, if you're breastfeeding you should take caution when taking Theraflu. Let’s discuss the reasons why.

Read more