By Natasha, Doulas Milwaukee Team

As doulas grow in popularity, a question that often comes up for expectant parents is, “What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?” and “Do I really need both or just one or the other?”. So let’s take a look at what makes midwives and doulas different, and what they have in common.

Midwives and doulas both work with expectant parents during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Both tend to view birth as a normal, physiological event rather than as a pathology that needs treatment. They also both take the time to listen to their clients’ ideas and concerns, validate their feelings, and respond in a thoughtful manner. Individuals who choose to work with a midwife and/or a doula are more likely to receive individualized care than with an OB-GYN. While midwives and doulas share these similarities, they do have some key differences.


Midwives are trained and experienced health professionals skilled in managing low-risk pregnancy and birth. They replace the OB-GYN as the primary medical care provider. A midwife’s primary concern, similar to that of an OB-GYN, is the health and safety of the pregnant person and their baby. They perform clinical tasks such as taking fetal heart tones, blood pressure readings, and performing cervical checks. A midwife will assess their client in early labor but may not join them until active labor has begun. Some midwives are affiliated with hospitals, will see their patients there, and baby will be delivered in a hospital setting. Other midwives practice in birth centers, where they’ll see patients and commonly have birth suits available, and yet other midwives will come to your home to provide care during the birth process. Unless in a hospital setting, a birth with a midwife is usually unmedicated as epidurals are not available outside of the hospital setting. However, the role of a midwife is always of a medical nature. When you look for a midwife, you will come across different abbreviations behind their names, namely CPM, CM, or CNM. These stand for different programs midwives can attend to become certified: CNMs (certified nurse midwives) are trained both in nursing and midwifery and are more likely than other types of midwives to practice in hospitals. CMs (certified midwives) and CPMs (certified professional midwives) most often attend births at birth centers or clients’ homes, but may have hospital privileges. There are also traditional midwives who choose not to become licensed or certified and will only practice as home birth midwives.


Doulas take a non-medical role when supporting families during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They are trained and experienced in providing physical, emotional, and informational care to their clients and have a strong focus on supporting the family’s wishes while becoming parents. A doula’s primary concern is the comfort and support the emotional wellbeing of both parents and their baby. Doulas attend all types of birth – medicated or unmedicated, at home, birth center, or in a hospital. They support whatever decisions the pregnant/birthing person chooses. A doula will guide their clients through position changes and other comfort measures, keep up a stream of encouraging words, and help interpret medical jargon. Doulas join their clients as soon as their presence is requested. They will also remain present throughout the entire labor and birth experience. Because they don’t have to focus on medical aspects, they are able to fully support the birthing person mentally, physically, and emotionally. Though many times people will just use the term “doula”, there are technically two different types of doulas with different training programs: Birth and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas provide support during pregnancy, labor, and birth while postpartum doulas provide support during – you guessed it! – the postpartum period, or the days and weeks following birth.


*Disclaimer: Any content provided by is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for personalized medical advice by your doctor, midwife, or other healthcare professional. Click return to homepage.

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