Difference between a midwife and a doula? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 02-06-2011, 02:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, it's too late for me to get either since my LO is 10.5 months.  However, I am curious for someone to define these for me.  DH asked the difference, and I don't have an answer.  I am new to natural parenting.  TIA!

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#2 of 4 Old 02-06-2011, 04:40 PM
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I am an Australian midwife so I will answer from that point-of-view. Midwifery in the UK is very similar to Australia, I believe there are some differences in the US.


A midwife is a health care professional who had expert knowledge and skills in the care of women during the childbearing period (from preconception to about 6 weeks postnatal usually). They specialise is low risk pregnancy and birth but also have a good understanding of pregnancy and birth complications and care for women experiencing these as well, usually in partnership with other HCPs . Midwifery is regulated by professional organisations and midwives must achieve certain standards of education and practical experience to be registered and remain registered. They are governed by a code of ethics and a set of professional guidelines. A midwife (or team of midwives) can be a woman's sole HCP during pregnancy, birth and the  postnatal period.


In Australia a midwife will have either a bachelors degree in nursing and a postgraduate diploma or masters in midwifery or, more recently, a direct-entry bachelor of midwifery. Some people still have hospital-based qualifications but most have upgraded these.


A doula is non-medical support person for women and their partners during pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period. Some doulas do all three, others specialise in a particular period ie postnatal doula. Some doulas have a library of resources which their clients can access for information or hold classes or run support groups. Some doulas provide services such as birth photography. During labour and birth doulas support the couple emotionally and practically (food, massage etc) and may advocate for them or support them in decision making or having their choices respected.


There are some professional doula organisations but no official registering or governing body that I am aware of and no education requirements, although there are courses offered.


Does that more or less answer the question? I am not a doula so hopefully someone else will respond if I have missed something there.

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#3 of 4 Old 02-09-2011, 12:39 PM
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In the US it is pretty much the same as PP wrote, but doulas here have certifying organizations (DONA, CAPPA, ALACE) that maintain standards of practice.

In the US there are CNMs (certified nurse-midwife (an RN with a Master's in midwifery)), and a bunch of other types of midwives, see: http://mana.org/definitions.html


That said, at my last birth, I had an OB/GYN (health complicaitons), and my CNM, but next time around I'll also hire a doula (DH agrees that a doula would have been a great resource and aid).  Oh, and I'm a pregnancy/labor RN...so I knew what to expect :)

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#4 of 4 Old 02-09-2011, 05:52 PM
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