Nurse Midwife vs. Doula: What’s the Difference, and Which One Do I Need?

The short answer from a nurse midwife

Doula with pregnant woman

Q: How is a doula different from a midwife?

A: A nurse midwife is a registered nurse who goes on to receive a master’s degree in nursing and specializes in midwifery. We specialize in low-risk pregnancies, labor and birth, but we also are able to perform exams and help women with some basic gynecological health concerns like sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections or yeast infections.

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We can work with women prior to, during or after pregnancy. We can actually attend the birth of the baby and help support them during labor, and then in the postpartum period with breastfeeding and birth control.

Doulas are nonclinical professionals, so they are not able to offer any medical advice. They cannot prescribe any medications, and they don’t deliver the baby. However, they can be an amazing source of physical and emotional support for the mom and her partner during labor, and sometimes during the pregnancy and postpartum period as well.

Doulas can coach women during labor with breathing techniques, different positional changes and relaxation strategies during pushing. Research actually really encourages doulas because it helps prevent cesarean sections and promotes vaginal delivery.

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Normally doulas are not part of the staff at the hospital, so a woman and/or her partner would need to find one on their own. Some of my patients will interview a couple of different doulas and find which one they click with most and will enjoy having with them during birth.

You can have both a midwife and a doula. I’ve worked alongside doulas, and it’s nice because we’re able to share the load and offer complementary support.

Jessica Costa, CNM

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