The word “doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” A doula is essentially a labor support companion. They are professionally trained in childbirth to provide emotional, physical, and educational support to pregnant women throughout their journey. They are NOT medically trained; their purpose is to provide a positive, memorable, and empowering birthing experience, but they do not help with the physical birthing process.
A midwife is a trained health professional, sometimes — but not always — a nurse, who helps healthy women during labor, delivery, and after the birth of their babies. Midwives can deliver babies at home, in birthing centers, or in a hospital.
Sara Linkey, CNM, MSN, RN at Henry County Hospital, explains, “Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) partner with women to provide evidence-based women’s health care. Midwives provide gynecology services, pregnancy and postpartum care, and are qualified and trained in delivery. The Midwifery relationship can start in the teen years and continue all the way through menopause. Midwives are passionate about education, health promotion, and assisting women to make the best choices about their health. Midwifery is women caring for women!”
For those who are considering a midwife, it’s important to recognize that midwives can have different levels of training:
A certified nurse-midwife (CNM) is a registered nurse who has graduated from an accredited nurse-midwifery education program and passed the national exam. CNMs can practice in all 50 states.
A certified midwife (CM) is a midwife with a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health field but is NOT a nurse. To become a certified midwife, however, they must complete an accredited midwifery education program and pass the national exam. Only a handful of states allow CMs to practice.
A certified professional midwife (CPM) has training and clinical experience in childbirth, in and/or outside of the hospital setting and has passed the national exam. They are NOT nurses. Not all states permit CPMs to practice.
Are they right for you?
While anyone and everyone could use a doula, it is recommended to only use a midwife if you have a healthy pregnancy with no complications as midwives are not medically trained or equipped to deal with complications during delivery or medical issues that may arise with the newborn.
Midwives provide the same medical support and guidance during pregnancy as an OB/GYN, conducting prenatal exams and advising you during your pregnancy. They can deliver your baby and provide a doctor referral when necessary.
As with all decisions during pregnancy, the choice of a doula and/or midwife is a personal one.