Ask the Expert: Q&A with Dr. Aliya — Midwives or Doulas?
Q. I’m pregnant with my first baby and a friend of mine suggested I hire a doula for labour and delivery. What exactly is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
A. Although a midwife and a doula may seem very similar in their approach toward childbirth, their roles differ quite significantly.
In Canada, midwives are trained and licensed medical professionals providing care to women during pregnancy, labour and delivery.
Doulas are not health care providers, but instead offer guidance and physical and emotional support to the mother and her partner during the pre and post-natal periods as well as during childbirth. She provides physical support to the labouring mother including gentle massage, guided breathing and positional support. As well, a doula often provides education and information to the couple so that they can make informed choices in their birthing experience.
Here are few things your midwife will do:
• Run prenatal tests and monitor your health and the baby’s health during pregnancy, birth and post-partum period
• Prescribe maternal health related supplements or medications
• Perform physical examinations
• Consult with an obstetrician (OB) if a medical complication comes up which is out of the midwifery scope
• Do their best to help you experience a comfortable birth
Here are a few things your doula will do:
• Give you information about medical examinations and procedures (but cannot perform these procedures)
• Establish a pre-natal relationship with you and help you figure out your “birth plan”
• Help keep you and your partner feeling calm and supported during labour
• Use a variety of tools and techniques to help you manage the intense physical sensations of labour and birth
• Ensure you feel comfortable and confident communicating your needs to your health care provider
• Provide any post-partum help and support
Although doulas do not provide medical care, research has shown that having a doula present throughout birth decreases the likelihood of using medical interventions such as instrument-assisted births (forceps, vacuum extraction) and c-section births. Furthermore, women who use doulas report having more positive feelings about their childbirth experience.
Many women often choose to have a midwife and a doula supporting them through labour and childbirth providing a perfect complement of knowledge, care and comfort for the mama-to-be.