Before you finish your second trimester of pregnancy, someone will probably ask if you plan to use the services of a doula or midwife. With all the health-care decisions you have to make during pregnancy, deciding whether to use a doula or midwife can feel like another overwhelming task. Here are a few simple details to help you distinguish the roles, and help you decide if you want to use their services.
The World Health Organization defines a midwife as: A person who, having been regularly admitted to a midwifery educational program that is duly recognized in the country in which it is located, has successfully completed the prescribed course of studies in midwifery and has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery. The educational program may be an apprenticeship, a formal university program, or a combination.
In other words, a midwife is a certified medical professional. While she may or may not have a degree, she has training, education, and supervised clinical experience. In the United States, she has credentials recognized by the American College of Nurse Midwives, she is a nurse midwife or a CNM. In Canada: Registered by the College of Alberta Midwives (AAM) and Canadian Association of Midwives (CAM). According to the WHO midwife definition, a so-called "CPM" or other midwives do not qualify as a midwife. A CPM does not have academic training and not the qualifications layed out by the WHO.
Midwives work in clinics, private practices, hospitals, or for themselves. They play a major role in prenatal care as well as delivery of babies and can prescribe some medications. The services midwives provide various from state to state due to different state laws.
Doulas have been described as “a new friend with experience in birthing.” A new mom told me her doula assisted with everything from keeping her spirits up to taking pictures of the baby immediately after birth. This new mom’s experience is compatible with the role of a doula. A doula provides physical and emotional support during childbirth. She helps women in a non-medical capacity.
So Which is Best
Of course, having a doula or midwife is not a requirement to give birth, but you need a support person with you during labor. You can choose to have both a midwife and doula present. If you’re worried about the cost of their services, you can find one that will fit your budget.
Consider someone who will work for free because she is in training and needs to attend more births before officially becoming a midwife or doula.
Before you do an internet search for doulas and midwives in your area, check with friends and family who have recently given birth to get a referral.
Ask your prospective doula or midwife if she has a backup when she’s not available. You will want to meet her backup as well. make sure the midwife has a hospital and a doctor backup.
As with choosing any health care professional, remember to choose someone who is qualified and who treats you with kindness and is professional; someone who you’ll be proud to tell your baby was your doula or midwife! Safety for you and the baby come firts!