Posts tagged doulas
What's the difference between a doula and a midwife?

So... a doula is like a midwife, right?

We get this question ALL the time!  It's O.K. We get it and honestly, we take it as a great compliment.  Doulas and midwives are like peanut butter and jelly - we make a great pair!  At a glance, there are a lot of similarities between midwives and doulas!

Midwives and Doulas are both:

  • people (usually women) who support you through pregnancy, birth, and after baby is born
  • there to help you get the information you need to make the best choices for you
  • able to work with you in your home or at a hospital
  • passionate about positive and empowered birth experiences

With all of those similarities it can be tricky to spot some of the key differences between midwives and doulas.  So, let's take a closer look!

Peterborough doula Hello Baby

What is a midwife?

A midwife can be your primary health care provider during your pregnancy, birth, and for the first several weeks after your baby is born.  Your midwife takes the place of an OBGYN and is responsible for your health and the health of your baby from pregnancy until about 6 weeks after birth.  Midwives usually work out of clinics which may, or may not, act as birthing centres and you will be connected with a team of midwives which means no matter when your baby is born, someone you know and trust will be there.

What kind of training does a midwife have?

A midwife has completed extensive education through one of seven recognized midwifery education programs by the Canadian Association of Midwives.  This training includes training in a four-year University program and a one-year mentorship with an experienced midwife.  Once her/his training is complete, a midwife practicing in Ontario is licensed by the College of Midwives of Ontario and can begin working with a practice.

Can a midwife do everything an OB(GYN) can do?

During your pregnancy, you will have access to all of the same tests and screenings as you would if you were under the care of an OB including ultrasounds and genetic screening and all standard lab tests.  When the results of the tests come back, it is your midwife who will discuss the results with you and help you make your choices.

During your labour, you have lots of options for pain management but there are certain things your midwife cannot do for you.  Pharmaceutical pain relief (like epidurals and narcotic pain medications) and inductions other than a membrane sweep have to be done in a hospital setting either by or with permission from an OB.   The level of involvement an OB has in these cases depends on the type of "privileges" your midwifery team has at any given hospital. 

Midwives have hospital privileges in Ontario hospitals. This means that they can admit and discharge clients at hospitals and access hospital resources needed by clients, including a consultation from a doctor if there is a concern or complication. Midwives are the only health-care professionals specifically trained in out-of-hospital birth.
— Ontario Midwives

As you would assume, a cesarean surgery would not be done by a midwife, though she can attend the birth with you and your birth partner in most cases.

What is a doula?

A doula is a great addition to your birth team!  Doulas are women (though there are some male doulas who have recently started practicing) who are passionate about helping you have a positive and empowered birth and have the knowledge and the skills to help you make it happen!  A doula is not a medical professional so you will still need either an OB or a midwife as your primary healthcare provider during your pregnancy and birth.  

A doula supporting a labouring woman and her birth partner.

A doula supporting a labouring woman and her birth partner.

What training does my doula have?

Doulas complete a certification program that includes "in-class" training, extensive reading, practical experience, and writing (and passing!) an exam through their chosen training organization.  As part of her training, your doula learns about the physiological process of birth, the various interventions you have to choose from, pain management techniques, newborn care, breastfeeding support, identifying and supporting common mental health issues and more.  Your doula might also be a certified Childbirth Educator, or hold other special certifications; just ask her!

Can a doula do the same things a midwife can?

Doulas and midwives have different but complimentary roles.  Your doula will not be doing any of the medical checks or charting that your midwife does; things like cervical checks and fetal monitoring are not a doula's "thing". What you doula does have is a deep understanding of birth and how to support and guide you through it.  Your doula can: 

  • help you review the benefits and risks of any choices you have to make
  • hold your hand during checks and tests
  • explain what's happening to your birth partner so they feel informed and involved
  • suggest different ways your birth partner touch or speak to you as you labour
  • work alongside or take turns with your birth partner to make you as comfortable as possible
  • reassure you that the sensations and emotions you are feeling are a normal part of birth
  • keep you focused and motivated to continue birthing when you feel like giving up
  • stay with you when the other members of your birth team need rest or food
  • be as "hands-on" or as "hands-off" as you need her to be.

Why do doulas and midwives make such a great team?

Remember how we said doulas and midwives were like peanut butter and jelly?  Here's why. Both midwives and doulas are focused on helping you birth on your own terms.  They both know that a well supported woman (or birthing person) will have a more positive and empowered birth experience so they are able to work together (or around each other... over each other ... and even under each other) with ease.

So... what's the difference between a doula and a midwife?

In a nutshell, your midwife can focus on your health and wellness.  Your doula can focus on your comfort and confidence.  When all of these factors are well managed and supported, birth can happen however you want it to!

Have you booked your doula yet?

If you would like to know more about Hello, Baby!'s team and how we can support you and your birth partner through pregnancy, labour, and the first year with your baby click HERE to contact us.  We can't wait to work with you for your best birth.




Meet Jenn!

HEY! I am Jenn, the other half of Hello, Baby!

I did make Steph do this like an interview because … well… that’s just how I roll.  So ask away, Steph! (read about Steph here)

S: Sooooooo, why did you become a doula?

J: Would you believe that before becoming a doula I was administrating employment programs?!  Having a baby completely changed my life and my career path, that’s for sure.

I had a heck of a time after giving birth to my daughter.  Pregnancy and birth were so beautiful and empowering for me. I was so lucky to have the birth I wanted and to end up with a happy and healthy baby.  Coming down from that “high” in the depths of postpartum depression was a shock to the system.  Top it all off with breastfeeding issues (low milk supply) and the fact that I, like so many of us, don’t live in the same city as my family (lack of support) and I was a hot mess.  I needed help and support but didn’t know who to ask or how to ask for it!

As I started to reach out to the mothers (and fathers) in this beautiful community, I quickly learned that almost every single one of them had feelings of uncertainty, guilt, and loneliness.  We were all smiles on the outside but inside we all just wanted someone to listen to our stories, to be our extra hands, and to validate the choices that we were making.  I think that is when I decided that training to become a postpartum doula was the right choice for me.  I wanted to help fill that gap and since then I have had the amazing pleasure of working with so many women and families in all stages of life with baby.

I think I always knew I would train as a  birth doula, it was just a matter of time.  Now that my own child is a little older and things have settled into a familiar groove on the home-front the timing is right.  The connection between pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period is so strong that, for me, it makes perfect sense to work with people through the whole journey.

S: What do you hope to bring to the community?

J: I want to keep working to make this community a safe space for sharing our experiences - the good, the bad, the ugly. All of it!  I think we (mothers) tend to get caught up in this weird competition of “bests” and “worsts” - I know I do from time to time-  and we forget that, in the end, we all struggle and we all need each other.   The more we are able to share the more we know and the more we can support and nurture each other.  

S: What is one thing you have learned working with people during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum?

J: I have learned SO much but if I can only pick one thing … I would say that I have learned that what people really need, more than anything else, is to be heard.  Sometimes listening with an open heart is the best support you could ever give.

S: Anything else you would like to share?

J: Honestly, I am just so excited to be following this dream.  I feel like I have been looking for a way to help people my whole life and finally I set out on the right path.  I know that the next few years are going to be amazing and I am really grateful for the opportunity to see where this takes us!

Jennifer Avis is a certified postpartum doula (HALO) and childbirth educator (ProDoula) and is currently working towards certification as a birth doula through Bebo Mia. Her primary focus is on providing education, support and perspective to expecting and new parents as they transition into life with a new baby. In her off time, Jennifer can be found digging in the earth and chasing her feisty toddler around the yard.

Why Hire a Doula?
We recently had coffee with Ann Douglas at Silver Bean Café and chatted all about her love for doulas! Ann is the author of numerous bestselling books about pregnancy and parenthood, including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and The Mother of All Baby Books. She is also the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. Her website is and she is @anndouglas on Twitter

By Ann Douglas

You’ve no doubt heard the buzz about doulas—professional labour and postpartum assistants who offer support to women and their partners during labour, birth, and beyond. What you might not realize until you’ve experienced the magic of doula care first-hand is just what a far-reaching impact a doula can have on your life. 

A doula can help you to feel good about your birth experience. A study conducted by a group of researchers in California found that women who had the support of a doula during their babies’ births were more likely to feel positive about their birth experiences than women who did not have the benefit of such support. While 82.5% of the women who had the support of a doula during labour rated their birth experiences as “good,” only 67.4% of women who laboured without the support of a doula felt similarly positive. Add to this the fact that mothers who labour with support from a doula tend to have shorter labours with fewer complications and fewer interventions, and you can see why so many moms-to- be opt for doula care.

A doula is a gift that you give to your partner as well as yourself. Having the support of a doula frees your partner up to do what partners do best—providing you with unconditional love and no-strings- attached support. It also makes it possible for your partner to practice self-care during labour, birth, and beyond. Your partner knows you’re in good hands when you’re being supported by a doula, so there’s no need to feel guilty for taking a break to have a quick snooze or to enjoy a healthy snack.

A doula can help you to find your “parenting village”—to tap into community services and supports and to connect with other new parents. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support that child’s parent—and your doula has the keys to the village! Why waste valuable time trying to research all your options when you could be doing something far more important, like cuddling with your baby or catching up on sleep?

So, as you can see, there are all kinds of compelling reasons to hire a doula. Doulas are your go-to guides to all things parenting as you prepare to make this exciting transition in your life.

--Ann Douglas