Doula vs. Midwife – What is the difference?

Doula vs. Midwife – What is the difference?
Published : September 05 , 2018
Latest Update : May 18 , 2022
Nicky Langley is a mother of four and a professional Doula, Hypnobirthing teacher and Breastfeeding Supporter. She has been living in Dubai... more

The roles of a doula and a midwife are completely different but, in my opinion, should be seen as completely complementary. 


As I covered in an earlier article, a doula is someone who acts more as a pregnancy/labour and birth coach, she provides emotional support but is not medically trained.


  • A doula does not deliver babies!

      Anyone can call themselves a doula but there are recognised bodies and associations who train doulas and offer professional qualifications.


  • It is a good idea when choosing a doula to research her training as doulas are expected to worth within certain parameters and stepping outside these guidelines can be frowned upon.


  • A doula does not replace your health care provider (your obstetrician and/or midwife) but can offer extra support such as pain management, breathing techniques etc and can also help you in the early days after the birth of your baby.


The lovely thing about hiring a doula is

that you get to form a bond before the birth of your baby, something that is difficult to do with midwives in this part of the world. 

Most doulas offer prenatal visits which are a wonderful time to get to know each other so that in essence you have an extra friend with you during your labour process, a friend who is trained to help and support you in ways that sometimes you partner may struggle with.


  • A doula is hired privately by parents and her role is to provide one to one labour support .  You can be safe in the knowledge that your doula is there specifically for you, she won’t be leaving to visit other clients.  Midwives sadly don’t have the luxury of giving such intimate care.


A common misconception about doulas is that they only support unmedicated births and are a somewhat “hippy” choice! This is completely untrue, we support every type of person, every type of birth!


A midwife is a medically trained healthcare professional.  

  • Midwives have different levels of training depending upon their country of residence.

But, I do know that in UK where I am from (my daughter is a UK trained midwife) that midwives undergo a very intense 3-year degree course which enables them to practice with a degree of autonomy.


In the UK it is usual only to see a doctor during your pregnancy, labour, and delivery if there is any kind of medical issue. In fact, home births are a common occurrence in the UK when a qualified midwife delivers a baby in the comfort of a mother’s own home if the pregnancy is straightforward.


  • Midwives are trained to see birth as a normal physiological event

    but are trained to deal with emergency situations and to handover to doctors if necessary.

Here in Dubai and I believe other middle eastern regions, care of pregnant women and their subsequent labour and delivery is Obstetrician lead. The chosen Obstetrician is the one to deliver the baby and perform any stitches etc.

I regularly work as a doula with midwives who I believe value my role and I absolutely love the feeling that we are all working together as a team with the same goal.

Which is to ensure that mum and baby are healthy, and that mum is well informed about her choices and that she can look back at her birth as a good, positive experience. 


A doula can really complement the work of a midwife and even relieve her of some of the duties that she struggles to have time to fulfil, sometimes things which she would love to have time to do such as washing mums face, helping her to the bathroom etc, small jobs that make a difference! 

  • Midwives are often far too busy to be able to spend quiet time just chatting with parents or just being quietly present, this is something a doula can easily do.


My dream would be that all hospitals would offer a team of doulas, midwives and Obstetricians who could work alongside each other and answer to the needs of all their pregnant/ labouring mums and their families.

I feel it is very important for everyone including healthcare professionals to understand the very defined roles of doulas, to see them as a huge resource and not to feel at all threatened by their presence. 


I wish you all the best in your search for the perfect birth team.


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