Midwife and Doula

What is a Midwife?

The number of women choosing a midwife or nurse has doubled in the last decade. In many parts of the world - England, France, Scandinavia and the Netherlands - pregnancy care by midwives has been, and remains, traditional. Using a midwife is growing in popularity in the United States.

There are various types of midwives, and one key distinction among the types is whether the midwife has nurse's training. If so, she is probably a certified nurse-midwife. A certified nurse-midwife has, at minimum, a degree in nursing with a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology and has passed several examinations to receive certification. Nurse-midwives provide complete obstetrical care for normal, healthy pregnancies and are trained to screen mothers for potential problems. Generally, they are known for specializing in "low-tech" care that emphasizes support for the expectant mother. They are permitted to prescribe medications and vitamins in most states, but they do not perform cesarean births or administer anesthetics.


Mothers who receive midwifery care tend to spend more time with their primary provider (their midwife), experience fewer interventions (cesarean delivery, etc.) and require less medication than those whose births are attended by physicians.

What is a Doula?

A doula is trained and experienced in the emotional, psychological and physiological process of birth. A birth doula does not replace your doctor or midwife, as she will not do vaginal exams or check your blood pressure. Often, a birth doula's work with you will include prenatal visits to discuss the birth and get to know your priorities. She may utilize and be trained in birth art, meditation, birth hypnosis, relaxation, massage for labor, aromatherapy and lactation. Your care provider (midwife, OB/GYN or family practitioner) will take care of your prenatal care and birth. Doulas will ensure that someone is always available to look after you emotionally and help you to attain the birth you desire.

With doulas, cesarean births are shown to be decreased, as are interventions such as using forceps. There also tends to be less medication and pitocin use. Researchers have noted that women attended by labor assistants have shorter labors, fewer labor complications, and fewer problems with newborns. The theory is that mothers attended by doulas produce lower levels of stress hormones than women left alone in labor or attended by inexperienced coaches.