I often see this question in pregnancy and parenting groups. It seems that people may think that if they have a midwife, they don’t need a doula. But maybe they don’t really understand the difference between a midwife and a doula.
Typically an obstetrician practices using the medical model of birth (which is focused more on the management of birth) and a midwife, the midwifery model (focused on the physiological process of birth).
Okay, so what that really means is that most midwives will let the woman’s body do it’s thing and only intervene if she or the baby are in trouble, and an OB will offer interventions to steer the birth toward completion. That being said, there are certainly OBs that act like midwives and vice versa.
A doula is a person trained to provide continuous one-on-one support to birthing people and their families.
This is very different from the role of a midwife. While having a midwife might mean that you can better craft the birth experience you want and you might find it easier to have your birth preferences met without having to fight for them, she will likely not be there to provide one-on-one support during the labor and birth of your baby. She also may not be available all those times that you have quick questions or just want to talk through what you are feeling. Her main goal is still the health and safety of you and your baby, while one of the doula’s main focuses is the emotions you are feeling during the birth experience.
Both the physical and emotional experience are very important but quite different. So different in fact, that most of the midwives in my area require their patients to hire doulas.
Midwives understand the needs their clients will have and they think one of the best ways for those goals to be met is with a doula.
Both OBs and midwives have a place in the birth world and it’s best to choose a provider that shares your values and makes you feel the most comfortable. Just remember that with either option, a doula is still a great partner to add to your team!