Midwifery myth: Doula is another name for a midwife

While many women have heard of a midwife, it can be confusing to understand the different roles midwives and other care providers have during a woman’s pregnancy and birthing experience. One common misunderstanding is the difference between a midwife and a doula.

What is a midwife?

Midwives tend to favor an approach to pregnancy, labor, and birth that is based on normal physiologic processes rather than the use of medical procedures, unless there is a clear reason for them. Midwives are skilled in creating an experience that is tailored to a woman’s personal preferences and health care needs. Offering labor support is desired, but midwives are also trained and certified to provide medical treatments when necessary.

What is a doula?

Doulas, on the other hand, do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, fetal heart rate surveillance, cervical examinations, or postpartum care. A doula is trained to provide pre- and postpartum emotional support and education. During the intrapartum period, a doula will offer emotional and physical support and suggest comfort measures for both the woman and her partner. Having a labor doula has been shown to decrease the incidence of cesarean as well as a need for labor augmentation (also known as Pitocin augmentation), the use of epidural, and the length of labor.

Midwives vs. doulas

Midwives and doulas tend to have a similar approach to care and often complement each other while working together as a team to offer labor support to a woman and her family.

Learn more about the University of Iowa Health Care midwives and the services they offer.

Last reviewed: 
March 2017

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