Midwives and doulas are two types of professionals that can both be part of your birth team.
Although both professionals might attend births their primary roles and responsibilities are very different. A midwife is a medical professional
, who is caring for and supporting physiological pregnancies and births. Their main job is to inform, educate and support pregnant people and through the means of medical care ensure the health of both mother and baby. It is also their responsibility during pregnancy and birth to call in a gynecologist, should there be any further medical assistance necessary.
Historically, women have generally been attended and supported by other women during labour. Since birth has moved into the hospitals and because our societies are built of smaller families than before, the experienced female companion who would come over once labour starts is not available in every community. When looking for a name for this modern version of a person providing labour support the Greek word δούλα – meaning servant woman – was used. A doula is a non medical professional, experienced in the physiology of labour and birth and offers continuous support, encouragement and comfort measures. Doulas do not check vitals, do not advise on medical procedures and do not speak to medical staff on behalf of their clients.
The most important extra element that a doula brings into birth support is continuous presence during birth. Whereas a midwife might come and go to check on other patients in their care a doula remains with the mother during birth, offering relaxation and breathing technique support, as well as comforting services like massage, and assistance with labor positions.
My main job as a doula is to provide information during pregnancy and to offer unbiased emotional and physical support during birth. I have no more than 2 clients a month so when I am on call I can can offer my undisturbed attention for my clients.
If you are interested in the evidence for doulas in detail, (“continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for women and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased Cesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences”) then read this article on the Evidence Based Birth website: Evidence on doulas