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Midwife or Doula?

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Understand the difference between the two!

The most common questions we get are: What is a doula? What is a midwife? and How are they different? While the information below will not answer all of your questions, it’s a good start!!

What is a Doula

A birth sister, commonly known as a doula (pronounced do’-la) is a professional birth worker who provides non-medical support to mothers and families. Birth sisters/doulas are often trained and certified to assist mothers. A birth sister provides non bias information, techniques, support and resources to aid a mom through pregnancy, labor, and the post-partum period. They can also provide tools to help the mother advocate for herself and her baby. Research shows, having a birth sister/doula during your birth reduces the need for medical intervention, reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as reduces the incidence of cesareans. It is important to note that a birth sister does not offer any medical advice. She is not a medical professional.

What is a Midwife

A midwife is a trained health professional that assists women during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and during the post partum period. In the U.S there are generally three types of midwives: Certified Nurse Midwives, CNM; Certified Professional Midwife, CPM; and Traditional midwives. All midwives generally work with low risk clients and strive to have moms birth in the most natural way possible with little to no intervention.

Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) generally assist mothers who birth in a birthing center or in their home. In these settings, pain medication is generally not administered. CPMs are skilled professionals who have hands on training and experience through formal didactic instruction, self-study and apprenticeship. Some CPMs get their training through a university while others choose a less formal self-study route. Regardless of the path of education, all CPMs meet the standards of certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives and are qualified to administer the midwifery model of care.

Traditional Midwives (TM) generally assist women who are planning to birth at home. They are skilled in the practice of traditional and ancestral midwifery. Training for TMs is wide and varied and includes various amounts of formal diadactic instruction, self-study and apprenticeship. Most TMs have learned through extensive apprenticeship.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) generally have a masters or doctorate degree in nursing with a concentration and focus in midwifery and women’s health. CNMs are trained to perform routine gynecological exams, provide prenatal care, and can be the primary care provider for women during labor and birth and throughout their lifespan. CNMs have extensive formal clinical and medical training. While they generally work in a hospital setting, some work in birth centers and support women with home birth. All CNMs meet the standards put forth by the American College of Nurse Midwives.

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