Isn't a Doula, the Same as a Midwife?

It’s a common misconception that doulas and midwives are one in the same. On one hand doulas and midwives both help women, during an emotionally charged and physically demanding threshold, (ie. childbirth), with caring, evidence based support. However on the other hand, the two serve very different positions, and hold two different skill sets.

The most important difference between a midwife and a doula is that midwives are clinical practitioners and serve as a mother’s primary care provider during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Doulas are non-clinical support people- we offer emotional, physical and informational support to mothers and families.

There are a few different credentials for midwives- some midwives are Certified-Nurse Midwives, and hold an advance nursing degree. These midwives can practice in all 50 states- either in a hospital or a birth center, and often in client’s homes as well. There are also Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) who are able to practice in nearly half of the 50 states, and provide care in birth centers and client’s homes.

Midwives perform prenatal care, just like OBs do. They also attend births, deliver babies, and provide postpartum care.

Doulas are non-clinical support people. That means doulas are there to be a family’s guide through the pregnancy, labor process and postpartum period. A doula offers a lot of educational and information support along the way, so families have the resources and knowledge to make informed decisions about the choices they need to make along the pregnancy journey. Doulas also offer physical support- through comforting touch and positional changes in labor, and hands on support postpartum with lactation support and newborn care. Doulas do not “catch” babies, or provide any medical care.


Jen Mayer