When it comes to preparing for childbirth, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with decisions. Who do you want present? Should there be meditation? What about photos? A tub of water and an Enya soundtrack? While we can’t help you figure out your playlist, we can give you some info about the key differences between a doula and a midwife so you can decide which one (if either) you want in the delivery room with you. You got this, mama.
What does a midwife do? A midwife is a medical professional who is trained to deliver babies, either in hospitals, birthing centers or even at home. Midwives are usually proponents for natural births and advocate as little medical intervention as possible, however certified nurse-midwives are able to do a lot of the same procedures that your OB-GYN can do (like administer drugs, stitch tears and use equipment to monitor the fetus). Midwives cannot, however, perform C-sections (your OB-GYN or surgeon does that). They often work together with doctors (especially if complications arise) but typically handle low-risk births on their own. While your doctor will likely come and go during your labor, a midwife will stay with you throughout if she's able.
Got it. And what is a doula? A doula is a non-medical professional (so can’t deliver your baby) who offers support and encouragement throughout the labor—sort of like a childbirth coach. Some things a doula might do: help you create a birth plan (and advocate for you when you’re too disoriented to speak up for yourself), suggest techniques for pain relief, rub your back during the delivery and visit your home after the birth to help you adjust. A doula will stay with you throughout the labor.
And how do I find one (or both)? Ask friends and doctors for midwife referrals, or use the "Find a Midwife" feature at Midwife.org. To find a doula, ask for recommendations or go through an organization such as DONA to ensure that your doula has had extensive training.
Anything else I should know? Because doulas are not health-care professionals, they’re typically not covered by insurance, although you may be able to get a reimbursement under your health savings plan. The cost of getting a doula varies greatly by location and experience, ranging from a couple hundred dollars to thousands.