What is the difference between a birth doula and a midwife?

Unlike doulas, midwives (and doctors and nurses) are medically trained health care providers who monitor the health of mother and baby throughout pregnancy and birth. Midwives can be certified or not certified, but the two types of certified midwives are Certified Nurse Midwives(CNMs) who come from a nursing background and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) who were not previously nurses. Both CNMs and CPMs are monitored and certified according to national standards and certification tests. CPMs are not licensed to practice in the state of Alabama. (See www.alabamabirthcoalition.org to see how you can help advocate for midwife licensing and decriminalization!)

A birth doula is only a non-medical paraprofessional in the obstetrical field who …

  • is not trained to deliver babies,
  • is not responsible for your or your baby’s health,
  • does not practice medicine,does not make medical recommendations,
  • has no opinion regarding your birth preferences,
  • isn’t pushing her own agenda,
  • and especially does not hint or ask you to “disobey your doctor”!

Before labor, your birth doula can help…

  • educate you about normal pregnancy and birth,
  • provide information on some birth procedures and standard hospital/doctor/midwife protocols for normal births,
  • can provide research and resources for you to learn what birth options exist so you can decide before labor what your choices regarding those options will be.
  • suggest you  discuss all your birth choices with your health care professional before labor begins so you can learn the risks and benefits of each option presented to you during labor.

Then during labor, your birth doula provides physical assistance, comfort measures, and emotional support. She may remind you of your birth plan and your own choices, but she does not suggest courses of action or inaction.