Doulas are just like Midwives, right?”
This is the biggest myth that I run into when describing a midwife or doula role. This is both a false and true statement in a number of ways:
Midwives are medical providers, while doulas are not. A midwife has all the medical training needed to care for a pregnant mother and her baby. Doulas are more of an emotional support, and while they can help explain medical jargon or procedures, they’re not performany clinical tasks. My degree is in psychology, so my goal is to make sure that Mom (and Dad) are supported and happy with the birth process. The midwife is there to keep mom and baby healthy and safe.
Midwives maybe limited to where they can practice. In Iowa, where I live, only a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) can deliver a baby in a hospital setting. If you are having a home birth, there may be more or less options. When I planned for my own home birth, there were only a couple providers to pick from, and both required me to travel for appointments. As a doula, I travel around North Iowa and Southern Minnesota to serve clients where they are. This includes prenatal visits, early labor support in the home if desired, and at their chosen place of birth–home, birth center, or hospital.
Because midwives have a number of essential clinical tasks to perform during labor (monitoring mom & baby, delivering the baby, caring for baby immediately after delivery, etc), her/his focus cannot be completely on mom and her birth partner’s needs. That is where the doula role is crucial to helping you have the birth experience you desire. My only role is to concentrate on you and your needs 100% of the time.
Midwives and doulas often have similar philosophies on pregnancy, labor & birth. They are trained in normal, natural birth, yet can support a variety of birth plans. They are the people who can discuss childbirth at length, and never get bored with the subject. Midwives are more likely to get to know you and your birth coach as people prior to labor. Combining that with your established relationship with your doula, and you know that you have a great team on your side going into whatever you may face in labor.
Midwives and doulas can both provide breastfeeding assistance. They are trained to help educate mom prenatally, as well as assist her right after she has the baby. This allows mom to be assessed prior to birth for any anatomical issues, to answer any of her questions, and prepare her for breastfeeding. Success rates are higher for both initial breastfeeding rates and longevity with an educated, supportive provider and support team.
Midwives and doulas are an essential part of the birth process. Both roles, while different, can help you to have a positive birth experience. A birth where both a midwife and doula are present allows the parent(s) to have a team that cares for them, listens, and truly believes in helping them achieve their birth goals. The best outcomes I have seen involved a competent, caring team including both.
I hope that helped bust that popular myth for you, and better define the role of a midwife versus a doula. What other myths have you heard?