Choosing your pregnancy care provider is a big decision, especially if it’s your first time around. You want to feel comforted, supported and informed before, during and after childbirth and choosing the right care provider is the best way to do this. The roles of midwives and doulas are often misunderstood and this post aims to give you clarification on what your options are and which one is best for you. If you’re deciding between midwife vs doula vs OBGYN, we hope these tips will help you find the best choice for you!
What is a Midwife?
Midwives are licensed medical professionals that are responsible for the health of you and your child prenatally and during childbirth. They run prenatal tests, prescribe maternal related supplements or medications, advise you on health during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, and monitor you and your baby during labour and birth. They also perform physical examinations prenatally, during pregnancy and postpartum. They can deliver babies in hospitals, birthing centres or your home and are known for offering a more “natural” approach to childbirth versus obstetricians (OB-GYNs).
Midwives aim to avoid or limit intervention during childbirth. They believe it’s best to let it happen as naturally as possible, and often offer more emotional support than doctors in tandem with their medical training. It tends to feel more like a relationship where there is personal connection and attention during the birthing process.
Although they favour natural births, midwives are also trained to recognize an emergency or situations that require medical care from a doctor. They’re trained to handle normal or low risk pregnancies, but do require the help from an OB-GYN for certain situations or pregnancies deemed high risk.
What is a Doula?
Doulas are not medical professionals and don’t actually deliver babies, but provide emotional, physical and informational support during your pregnancy and birth. They establish a prenatal relationship with you and help you create a vision for your birth. They can also direct you to pregnancy and family resources in your community and help keep you and your partner calm during labour.
They help you manage pain during labour using helpful techniques and ensure you feel confident communicating your needs to your healthcare provider. Doulas also provide postpartum emotional support and help with breastfeeding initiation.
Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations, or providing postpartum clinical care. They support your medical team by providing non-clinical support, so that they can focus on their clinical responsibilities. Studies have shown that when doulas attend births, labours are shorter with fewer complications, the use of pain medication is decreased, and babies are healthier and breastfeed more easily.
3 Similarities Between a Midwife and Doula
1. Both help people through pregnancy and labour
2. Both are often chosen by those who are planning to go drug-free through their delivery
3. Both believe birth is a normal, physiological process
5 Differences Between a Midwife and Doula
1. Midwives are medically and professionally trained and certified and focus on delivering a healthy baby during the birthing process
2. Doulas do not have medical training and do not deliver babies, but offer mental, physical and emotional support to the mother
3. Midwives perform clinical and medical tests, doulas do not
4. Doulas provide face-to-face support during early labour, midwives typically do not stay with you until you’re in active labour
5. If complications arise, a midwife focuses on the physical health of you and your baby, while a doula provides physical comfort and emotional support
What is an OB-GYN?
An OB-GYN is a doctor who specializes in pregnancy and female reproductive health. They’ve completed medical school and a residency program to gain relevant experience. They care for you during your pregnancy by conducting prenatal testing, fetal monitoring, testing for birth defects or genetic disorders, and care for you during your labour and delivery.
They provide information on any physical, mental or emotional changes you experience and guide you through postpartum physical changes. They can also prescribe medications and are able to order you an epidural during delivery if needed.
An OB-GYN can manage high risk pregnancies and perform surgeries (such as C-sections) when required. Midwives, on the other hand, are prohibited from performing C-sections and using forceps and vacuums during the delivery process.
What Choice is Best for You?
In terms of choosing a medical provider for your pregnancy and birth, you’re choosing between a midwife and an OB-GYN. They’re both maternal health care providers. A doula works to complement the care provided by your doctor or midwife and can be used together with either one.
Midwives and doulas often work in collaboration with one another. Their qualifications and expertise complement each other to benefit you through pregnancy and birth. Doulas can also be beneficial if you’re working with an OB-GYN as they offer a more personal experience.
If your pregnancy has been deemed high risk, it’s probably best to go with an OB-GYN, as you will likely need their intervention at some point anyway, and you might as well start off where you are safest.
You should talk to your healthcare provider as well as your partner to figure out the best option for you. Consider how many people you want in your room during childbirth and what kind of support you’re looking for. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing your pregnancy care team:
- Has my pregnancy been deemed high risk?
- Am I planning to have a natural birth? Or do I want/am I open to an epidural?
- Do I want to give birth at a hospital, birth centre or at home?
- How much emotional, physical and informational support will I need through my pregnancy journey and after?
- How many people do I want in the delivery room with me?
- Do I want early support and support all throughout my labour? Or do I feel okay with support only during active labour?
We hope these tips help you decided whether you’ll use a midwife, doula and/or OB-GYN. Ultimately, you should make the decision that’s best for you!