What's the difference between a midwife and a doula?

Since I've moved back to Tulsa, OK from Brooklyn, NY, I've been getting this question a lot more often. And can I just say? I LOVE this question! If someone is asking me the difference between a midwife and a doula, then I know that they have heard of doulas before. YES! Also they've heard of midwives. DOUBLE YES! I am so thrilled to get to explain the differences between the two.

So here's my answer: 

As a member of your birth team, a midwife is usually the primary care provider - analogous to an OB/GYN in terms of providing clinical care and monitoring/managing the progress of your labor and birth, though their role will differ from an OB/GYN. The biggest difference being that OB/GYNs are surgeons and midwives are not, so midwives must refer out in the event that a surgical procedure (for example, cesarean birth) becomes necessary. This is a little simplistic and leaves some big things out, but basically the midwife is who you see for your regular prenatal care, the person watching your clinical progress in labor, catching your baby, managing the third stage of labor (what happens after the baby is born!), and providing postpartum clinical care.

A doula, on the other hand, provides no clinical care in pregnancy, labor, birth, or postpartum. Doulas instead provide physical, emotional, and informational support through pregnancy, labor, birth and early postpartum. The other key difference is that doulas provide continuous support in labor, while your midwife may be caring for multiple labors at a time and have to come in and out of your room (for example, in a hospital setting).

Now, some midwives will absolutely provide more emotional and physical support in labor than others - same thing with OBs. I've seen midwives "labor sit" and provide quiet, calm presence during home births, birth center births, and hospital births. At many home births, once your midwife comes to you and labor is well under way, you will have continuous support from your midwife until after giving birth. And in that case - yay! With continuous clinical care, your birth outcomes can greatly improve. Continuous presence of clinical providers is an awesome thing, and I love doulaing in those situations. 

So what's the short answer, the takeaway?

Midwives are trained clinical care providers; doulas are non-medical professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and educational support. 

Are you looking for a doula in the Tulsa, OK area to provide continuous support for your labor and birth? Please be in touch to schedule your free consultation to see if we would be a good fit!