Doula, midwife, obstetrician – what’s the difference?

Choosing the right caregiver who will be present and support you through your pregnancy, labour and delivery is key to achieving the birth you desire. So who are the players and what do each of them offer. Read below to find out more.

What is a Doula?

A Doula (pronounced “doo-la”) is a birth companion and post birth supporter. She (or he) will provide emotional and physical support to a woman during labour, birth and after birth. Traditionally, she is also the birthing mother’s advocate.

A Doula should be trained as a Doula and will hold a certificate of her training. However, he or she is not medically trained and therefore cannot perform tasks such as vaginal examinations or foetal heart rate monitoring.

A Doula is knowledgeable in various comfort measures such as:

  • relaxation breathing;
  • massage;
  • body positioning; and
  • managing the pain of labour, including using water, hot packs and aromas.

A Doula will work with the mother, drawing on her experience and strength to assist the mother towards her desired birth.

An expectant mother wanting to naturally birth her baby often looks to a Doula for assistance to help her reach that goal.

What is a Midwife?

Similar to a Doula, a Midwife is also a birth companion and post birth supporter. However, she will also be a medically trained health professional. She can work either within a hospital system or privately. Some Midwives are advocates and supporters for a natural birth, while others are simply happy to go with the flow of hospital policy.

Private midwives who focus on one patient at a time, tend to also provide emotional and physical support to a woman during labour, birth and after birth.

A Midwife can deliver a baby in a hospital, a birthing centre or at home. If attending a home birth, they will carry with them all of the equipment necessary to resuscitate a baby in an emergency.

What is an Obstetrician?

An Obstetrician is a qualified physician or surgeon who specialises in pregnancy, childbirth and a woman’s reproductive system. Often referred to as an OB/GYN, some women (particularly high-risk women) will choose to see an Obstetrician throughout their pregnancy and for their birth.

An Obstetrician will have graduated from medical school and have completed a residency program in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. They will hold a board certification in the region in which they practice.

Unlike a Doula or Midwife, your Obstetrician is unlikely to be waiting around supporting you while you labour. It is more common for him or her to do one or two checks on you and then to arrive in time to deliver your baby.

An Obstetrician will manage any problems that arise during the labour and birth. Your Obstetrician will also perform caesarean sections, forceps, vacuum extraction and episiotomies – should you require any of these options.

Hi! Natural Birth and Motherhood is about empowering women who are going through the stages of pregnancy, birth or motherhood.  Find out more useful information on related topics by clicking the Blog button below.

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