What's the difference between a Doula and a Midwife?

Posted by Sherry Pipano on

This question has come up so many times, and if you google it, I'm sure you'll find the technical answer. The thing is, giving birth is such an emotional process, that finding the technical answer doesn't really help, what you really want to know is what will I experience with either a Midwife or a Doula?

According to the Association of Ontario Midwives: "Midwives are health-care professionals who provide government-funded expert primary care to pregnant people and their newborns. Through pregnancy, labour, birth and the first six weeks after birth, you will be cared for by a small group of midwives. This continuity of care means that you are likely to know the midwife who delivers your baby." 

A midwife will replace an OB. There will be one midwife who delivers your baby and perhaps a midwife in training as well, but it's generally a more intimate birthing experience. Not to mention the support prior to your birth, and the support you'll receive postpartum. Some will do postpartum follow-up checks all in the comfort of your own home. They're truly a blessing and in Ontario, Canada we're lucky to have this service government funded. 

I initially wanted a midwife for my birth with Lea. There was a specific hospital I wanted to deliver at. You can still deliver at a hospital with a midwife, but it gets a little tricky. Each hospital is affiliated with a specific Midwifery, and there are only a certain number of patients the midwifery is allowed to take on when delivering at a hospital. 

If you're planning on having a home birth, or birth at the midwifery clinic than having a midwife is your best option, and the chance of you getting accepted is much likely because you can apply at different midwiferies and whoever is available at the time of your due date can accept you as their patient.

TIP** If you think that having a midwife is the direction you want to head in, I would highly suggest filling out an application with the midwifery of your choice the moment you find out you're pregnant. The sooner the better as their waitlist is very long. I didn't get accepted because I only applied when I was 5 months pregnant, and they were already fully booked for my due date. 

So... what's a doula?

According to the Canadian Women's Health Network "A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labour, or has recently given birth. Their purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience."

My doula, Marcie, did just that. She was with me throughout the process of my pregnancy, she came over to see how I was doing throughout my pregnancy and helped me create a proper birth plan. I decided on a natural birth, which meant no medication and no intervention. The day of my birth she met me at the hospital and helped me every second of the way. She was my saving grace. So do I recommend a Doula? Absolutely!!! She managed to keep me calm, she listened to me intuitively, and when I made the decision to have the epidural, she supported it and never made me feel guilty about changing my birth plan.

Marcie was responsible for maintaining an intimate environment throughout the birth process. She brought candles, all kinds of props to try different positions during the contractions. When you're going through intense contractions, you really need to focus on your breath. My mother and mother-in-law were right outside the room listening to everything that was going on in the delivery room as I was going through my contractions. It was making me feel uncomfortable and unfocused. With Marcie there, it was like having a personal bodyguard. Whatever I wanted or needed to make my experience more pleasant, she did without any hesitation. 

She made sure the nurses and doctors were aware of my birth plan. She wanted to make sure she knew what my boundaries were and made sure no one, including her, were to cross them. Not the nurses, not the doctors, not my family. She made sure that Ben and I were always connected and together. 

She reported everything that went on in the birth, hour by hour, and during the birth itself, she recorded it minute by minute. She also took beautiful photos of the birth, which I was so thankful for. A week later, she sent it to me, and I started crying of emotion, it was as though I re-lived the experience, and how beautiful it was.

I didn't think I needed a doula postpartum, but looking back it would have been nice, I didn't really understand how the hormones would hit me or how difficult breastfeeding can be. I would cry uncontrollably, and I felt like I was never going to get out of the sad state I was in. Eventually, it passed, and I became stronger because of it, but it would have been nice to have the additional support. 

Looking back, I'm so happy with the direction I went in because there was no way I was going to have my first child anywhere other than a hospital. Even though I had no pre-existing conditions, I just didn't want to take a chance. Having a Doula with me, gave me the confidence and love that I needed. 

Hope that clarifies a bit for you if you have any more questions feel free to add your questions to the thread below!

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