Doula vs. midwife | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Doula vs. midwife: Who does what?

If you think a doula and midwife are the same thing –– they’re not. Learn what each role does in helping a woman have a healthy, happy pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant, you may be thinking of working with a doula or a midwife. You may think that the roles are interchangeable, but the roles they play in the delivery room are very different. What does a doula do versus a midwife?

What Is a Midwife?

A midwife is a trained medical professional who helps women before, during and after pregnancy. Midwives can deliver babies and provide gynecological care. Norton Healthcare employs only certified nurse midwives (CNMs). These are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) trained through an accredited nurse midwifery program. All CNMs must hold a license in the state they practice, usually through their state board of nursing. They also must complete continuing education requirements to maintain a license and CNM designation. There are other types of midwives who are not nurses and are not clinically trained, and it is important to check with your provider.

What Does a Midwife Do?

Midwives can provide care at any phase of life before and after a pregnancy, much like an OB/GYN. They can:

  • Consult about family planning and pre-pregnancy health care
  • Perform gynecological exams, and order any necessary tests
  • Educate about proper diet, exercise, meds and keeping healthy while pregnant
  • Provide emotional, practical and medical support during labor
  • Deliver babies
  • Make referrals to specialists as needed

Midwives care for women with low risk of complications during their pregnancy. A midwife may refer you to an OB/GYN should complications arise during your pregnancy.

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More than 8,000 babies a year are delivered at Norton Healthcare hospitals.

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What Is a Doula?

A doula is a nonmedical role. A doula can counsel a woman before, during and after childbirth. The doula provides support and acts as an advisor for the pregnant woman and family.

While some doulas may be certified with courses and special training, they do not have the education and certifications to provide the gynecological care that midwives do, nor to deliver babies. A doula’s role is strictly supportive; doulas cannot order medications or advise any medical staff in terms of assisting you with labor.

Doulas usually contract with an expectant mother on the type of support and services needed. If you’re interested in working with a doula, you may want to reach out and interview several before selecting and entering into a contract for care. Norton Healthcare offers a class on doulas, if you are interested in learning more.

What Does a Doula Do?

A doula may help you:

  • Learn about childbirth and newborn care
  • Give support during labor, helping with breathing and positioning
  • Help provide emotional support for mom and any partner or birth coach, including staying calm
  • Recover from labor and help with the newborn
  • Help with housework and your other children
  • Guide you through the postpartum period, including any breastfeeding, baby blues and/or anxiety
  • Help be your advocate during labor

Can You Work With a Midwife and a Doula?

Yes! Many women choose midwifery care for their pregnancy and hire a doula to help support during the pregnancy and delivery. Doulas are available to work with any obstetrical care provider as well.


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