“So,what exactly is the difference between a doula and a midwife, anyway?”

12593715_840343026111242_4013336536793159637_oWhen I attend a hospital birth, I wear my super-awesome, pink, “I’m the doula!” t-shirt.  In a setting with a large variety of people with different roles, I figured that proclaiming my role with a happy pink shirt would be both efficient and simple.  Besides,  it makes for great conversations in the elevator as I’m leaving, and fellow passengers are wondering what on earth I DO, anyways.

(On a total side note, my absolute most favorite question about doulas was told to me by a Dad I’d recently helped.  He went back to work after paternity leave, and told a co-worker about how he loved having a doula, doulas are awesome, best decision they’d made for that birth….the co-worker asked “soooo….what is a doula, exactly?  Is that a special kind of bathtub?”  That still cracks me up.)

This time, the question was very specific; what IS the difference between what you do, and what a midwife does?  This seems to be a common bit of confusion, as I’ve mentioned my work several times to hear in response “oh, like a midwife?”

Let’s see if I can clear a bit of this up….


  • Extensive Medical training; often equivalent to a Master’s Degree
  • Oversees the clinical side of your care
  • Often are also Registered Nurses (CNM)
  • Monitors your physical health and safety during labor
  • Will catch–or oversee someone else catch–your baby
  • Assesses your health and your baby’s health after birth
  • Can administer medicines, such as antibiotics or pitocin
  • Is able to perform stitching of smaller tears
  • Can perform gynecological exams, and offer contraceptive prescriptions, if you want


  • provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth”
  • Certification (if pursued) is roughly equivalent to ten to fifteen college credits
  • Acts as part labor coach, part personal attendant, part best friend, part favorite aunty, part birthing wiki-person
  • Focuses on your physical comfort and emotional peace
  • Helps you work through every contraction
  • Encourages you and reminds you of your goals
  • Helps your husband know how to best support you
  • Gets your water, your crackers, your favorite fuzzy socks, your bathrobe, your phone–any and everything you need to stay strong
  • Encourages movement and helps with position changes to keep baby moving down

I’ve always thought that doulas complete the circle of care around a woman; her partner, her doctor or midwife, and her nurse are all important parts of that circle.  But the most important thing is that a mother feels completely encircled with loving and knowledgeable care!

My husband (partner) is my left hand and my doula is my right.”

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