Zealous Baby Care

Practical (and judgment-free) advice on caring for your newborn from the baby pros

Doula vs. Midwife: Must You Choose?

Doulas and midwives are both professionals who assist with childbirth and women’s reproductive health.  A doula provides support to the mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth, but does not deliver the baby. A midwife may offer gynecological examinations, birth control counseling, prescriptions, and labour and delivery care.

midwife with couple

doula focuses on an expectant mother’s own needs, which enables her to have a memorable and empowering experience while giving birth. While in most cases the term “doula,” implies a professional who is present during the birth, there also are doulas who specialize in antepartum (before birth) care and postpartum care. A doula typically helps a woman prepare a birth plan.

A birth doula remains with the mother during birth, offering relaxation and breathing technique support, as well as comforting services like massages, and assistance with labor positions; however, doulas are not medically trained, and cannot deliver babies. A doula is not a substitute for having a woman’s partner at the birth. Doulas encourage participation from the partner and offer support and reassurance to the partner as well.

midwife is a health care professional. Depending upon the laws of the region in which the midwife practices, a midwife may perform gynecological examinations (for example, Pap smears, pelvic exams, and breast exams), write prescriptions, care for a woman during labor and delivery, perform fetal monitoring, and provide information about contraception. A midwife usually seeks to eliminate or minimize unnecessary technological interventions, believing that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes. You can choose to have a midwife ora doctor, not both. As midwives are experts in low-risk pregnancy and birth, midwifery clients will not see a physician unless there are concerns or complications. If complications arise, midwives can consult with physicians or, if necessary, transfer a client’s care to a physician. If care is transferred, midwives continue to support their clients and resume primary care when it is possible.

Some midwives also are trained as nurses. A nurse-midwife usually can offer the greatest variety of health-care services to women.

Since the two professions both offer benefits to expectant moms, you can have both a midwife and a doula to help you during the birthing process.  Doula support is an amazing complement to the care you will receive from your midwife.  There are many amazing midwives here in Toronto, and they certainly provide great support for your birth. However, their ultimate responsibility is the health and safety of you and baby. They need to be present, alert and at the top of their game during really active birth and pushing.  Your doula will stay with and typically join you earlier than your midwife, from as early as you would like her there until after the birth of your baby.

Something to consider:

Doulas are not covered by any provincial health care plan. But doula services have started to be funded by some private insurance plans, which may be contributing to their increased use.

However, Midwives are part of the Ontario health-care system and their services are completely funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Ontario residents who are not currently covered by OHIP can still receive midwifery care with no charge.

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