Updated: Dec 18, 2020
I heard a woman say “Oh, I was considering hiring a doula, but I just got a midwife instead.” She may have been bitter because I turned down an interview for a position that I may have been the top candidate for…so she could have totally been taking a dig on me. Anyway, I thought to myself, “Well, they don’t do the same things.”
While the titles scream hippy they are both totally beneficial to the mothers and families deciding to utilize these AMAZING services, but they are not the same. The use of these birth professionals is often interchanged by people who desire an unmedicated birth, but that is not a requirement to hire these individuals.
Hiring a midwife is like hiring an OB, but they have the option to catch babies at more than just the hospital. Their views will often align better with the removal of excessive medical interventions during labor and delivery than a traditional OB. Some midwifes may be able to provide additional support during labor and delivery, but they are going to be more focused on the big show, pushing. Not to mention, in most scenarios, midwifes will often have other patients or duties associated with their position.
A doula is NOT a doctor, nurse, or midwife. Doulas are not trained to perform or make medical decisions; however, a doula will be trained in knowing about the interventions that could take place and provide families with information that may otherwise be overlooked by everyone else in the room, wherever that may be. The doula also remains with the family in the labor and delivery room until up to 2 hours after delivery. A doula is a constant support person in the room, taking minimal breaks to use the bathroom or sneak in a quick snack. Doulas support the role of the partner, they do not replace them, but does make them more effective in their efforts to supporting the laboring person.
The role of the doula begins in the prenatal stages, typically starting in the third trimester. The goal here is to get to the know the family, their wishes, expectations, and to build a relationship in order to provide the best support during this period of transition. In addition, your doula will meet with you within a week after your birth to go over the experience, answer questions and make sure you have time to share all of your feelings surrounding the event.
I did not hire a doula for my first birth, we were worried about the cost and I felt like we knew all we needed to after our childbirth prep class with a nurse-doula (she was amazing, and my inspiration for my career change). If I could change anything about my labor and delivery it would be the presence of a doula. I have talked about the experience with my husband and we have gone through the events, but I wish I would have opened my eyes more during labor. I also wish there were more photos and even a video. Yes, I said it, a VIDEO! I felt like a BEAST after I gave birth and I wanted to see the events unfold in film.
Here is my suggestion, if you are deciding between the two, don’t. Hire both and checkout what options the place you have chosen to give birth at offers. Perhaps a midwife is available on call at the hospital or birth center and that may suit your needs. Even for a home birth I highly recommend getting both of these professionals on your birth team. Did you know some hospitals even have doulas on call? I recommend a more intimate relationship with a doula, hiring her prenatally, but if that doesn’t work for you or your budget then check the hospitals in your area for these types of programs as well as volunteer doulas.