"So you're a birth doula, is that like a midwife?"
This is by far the number ONE question that I get asked when someone hears that I'm a birth doula. It was a question I asked too, before I started learning about doulas and their role as part of the birth team. It's also one of my favourite questions because it means I have the opportunity to share all that doulas DO, as well as what they don't.
The short answer is no, birth doulas and midwives are not the same. What they have in common is a desire to support birthing families throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The ways in which they provide that support is different, but complimentary. Sometimes, the impression is that you need to choose either a midwife or a doula, or that you do not need a doula if you have a midwife. However, midwives and doulas have distinctly separate roles when it comes to supporting your birth.
A Registered Midwife is a primary healthcare provider, trained to provide any necessary medical care for a birthing client throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Midwives provide comprehensive care including regular clinic visits, diagnostic tests and routine bloodwork. Clients under midwifery care do not see an obstetrician or family physician in addition to their midwife for pregnancy related care, however midwives are able to consult with other care providers when necessary. To learn more about midwifery practice in Alberta, visit the College of Midwives of Alberta.
A Birth Doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a birthing client before, during and after childbirth. Birth Doulas do not provide medical care, give medical advice or deliver babies. Birth Doulas help with comfort measures during labour including massage and positioning, emotional support for the birthing person as well as their partner/support person, and provide evidence-based resources so the birthing client can make informed decisions. To learn more about the role of the birth doula, visit DONA International.
"So do I need a midwife and a doula?"
Birth Doulas work cohesively as members of your birth team, and are a wonderful complement to the comprehensive and skilled medical care provided by a midwife. While midwives are very well-versed in physical and emotional support during labour and delivery, they must also attend to the medical aspects of birth, monitoring the health and well-being of you and your baby. With both a midwife and a doula, support for you and your partner is continuous, ensuring that you can focus on the hard work of labour while we take care of the rest.
We are fortunate to have some AMAZING midwives in Alberta. If you are looking for midwifery care, visit the Alberta Association of Midwives and click Find a Midwife.