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Doulas vs. midwives
Q: What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A: Midwifery is a time-honored profession that has been around since biblical times. These individuals are either trained nurses with an advanced degree, or “lay” nurses without any official training. They deliver babies vaginally but they do not perform surgical deliveries such as cesarean sections. Nurse midwives will deliver babies in the hospital or in a home-style environment, whereas lay midwives only do deliveries out of the hospital.

Doulas are a recent phenomena. I am not sure exactly how they got their start, but they are here to stay. This person is a labor and delivery coach, another support person. They do not manage labor or deliver the baby. They are typically well versed on the birthing process, helping the couple cope with the experience. I have had only positive experiences with these individuals. However, I have several rules regarding their involvement in the labor and delivery process: #1. They should not take over the husband’s important role during labor and delivery; and #2. They are not the broker between me and my patient.

I would speak with your practitioner and hospital regarding their policy toward doulas before contracting for their services. In addition, some doulas offer newborn care in the home as teachers and helpers.
Craig L. Bissinger M.D.