Midwife vs. Doula: Understanding the Difference and How They Can Enhance Your Pregnancy Journey

Bringing a new life into the world is a miraculous and transformative experience, but it can also be overwhelming, stressful, and intimidating.Soon-to-be parents often seek support to navigate the complexities of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Two key professionals who provide invaluable assistance during this journey are midwives and doulas. While their roles may seem similar at first glance, they serve distinct purposes and can greatly enhance the pregnancy process in unique ways.

Some expecting parents will hire one or the other, while others hire both. Here’s what you need to know about midwives and doulas and how they can guide and assist before, during, and after labor.

What is the difference?
Noun, mid-wife a trained healthcare professional with expertise in providing care to expectant mothers throughout their pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

“My job as a midwife is to go into their home and ensure that mom and baby are safe and healthy and the birth is proceeding in the way it’s supposed to,” says Emily Thomas, a Midwife at Organic Home Birth. “But also to help them have the birth that they are really looking for.”   

Noun, dou-la a birth professional dedicated to helping women and their partners navigate through the latter part of pregnancy, labor, and birth, helping them work toward their personal goals.

“Doulas don’t make decisions for clients but ensure they have all the information to make choices they don’t later regret. She allows couples to ‘be in the moment’ of the experience instead of needing to think critically about what they should be doing,” says Rene’ Johnson, the Owner of Birth Help and DONA Certified Doula. “She [doula] facilitates communication between midwives, OBs, and nursing staff so clients’ requests are clear.”

Both professionals can educate expecting parents by discussing the various stages of pregnancy, labor, and birth and helping them make informed decisions.

That Wasn’t Part of the Plan
Whether you’re having a baby in a hospital or at home, it might be hectic, overwhelming, and even terrifying at times. Your mother-in-law might be overstepping the boundaries, or your husband might not be saying the right encouraging words while you’re in labor. Whatever it is, a doula or midwife can help defuse situations and help family members take a step back. They can create a supportive and nurturing environment by reducing anxiety and fear.

Also, these trained professionals can take over the communication between the medical staff, so that’s one less thing you have to worry about. Doulas and midwives will advocate for you and help you have the beautiful, exciting, loving, and personalized pregnancy that you want.

What Does Postpartum Care Look Like?
After the baby is born, you might have questions, concerns, or anxious feelings that these skilled individuals can help with.

Midwives can provide postpartum care, like monitoring the mother’s physical and emotional well-being, offering guidance on breastfeeding and newborn care, as well as answering any medical-related questions to help put new parents at ease.

Doulas, on the other hand, can offer emotional support to parents and help them adjust to their new roles and responsibilities.

Helping Women Who Have Had a Traumatic Birth

When it comes to feelings of loss of control in a previous pregnancy, both professionals can help maintain that control for the future.

“Women often express their trauma is a result of lack of autonomy, remembering that their wishes were not heard, and not feeling a part of the experience or it felt like others were in control of the process,” Johnson says.

Johnson says that at Birth Help, they often work with women who have had a traumatic birth, and usually, these experiences are a result of the delivery not going as they had planned.

“These women need time to discuss their previous birth, the details, how it unfolded, as well as integrate this into who they are post-birth…[we] often offer additional therapeutic resources for processing the birth,” Johnson says. “Doulas also may help a client locate suitable birth classes that encourage couples to explore all aspects (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) of birth and connect at a deeper level with each other and their providers.”

Helpful Resources for Soon-to-Be Parents
Birth Help offers a Natural Birth Series where expecting parents can understand, learn, and make decisions about their future birth. They also provide a Comfort Measures Class that offers hands-on experiences to help mothers get through the birthing process.

Woman’s Hospital also offers childbirth prep classes ranging from breastfeeding and preparing for delivery to understanding your newborn.

At the Baton Rouge Clinic, they offer a free prenatal class that is led by pediatricians and can help expecting parents navigate through the pregnancy and answer any questions or concerns they might have before the newborn arrives.

Baton Rouge General also offers childbirth, baby care, and breastfeeding classes that are also available virtually.


This article was originally published in Fall 2023.