Pregnancy and Birthing Q&A

What's the Difference Between a doctor, Midwife our Doula?

     What's the difference between a doctor, a midwife and a doula?
In short, doctors and midwives provide medical care to expectant mothers and deliver babies. Doulas do not provide any medical care, but instead provide emotional, informational, and physical support to mothers and their birth partners before, during, and immediately after birth.
The difference between a doctor (OB or OBGYN, most of them) and a midwife is generally the style of care. Doctors tend to be much more medicalized and are usually the only choice for women experiencing a high risk pregnancy. Obstetricians are surgeons.
     Midwives are experts in normal birth and low risk pregnancies. They tend to be more holistic in their care and give more personalized service. Midwives spend more time with their patients during pregnancy and birth than doctors do, in general, and tend to have lower intervention and complication rates. Though midwives can perform most any procedure that doctors can, there are a few complications, such as c-sections, that midwives must refer their patients to doctors for.
    There are many types of midwives. A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is a midwife who was first a nurse, and then received a masters degree in Nurse Midwifery. Certified Midwives (CM) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) are also known as Direct Entry Midwives and have been trained only in pregnancy and birth. It is interesting to note that in most every other country in the world, the majority of births are attended by midwives.
     It is easy to argue over which care provider is better, but what it comes down to are your needs. If you are high risk, an OB is very likely the best choice for you. If you are experiencing a low risk, normal pregnancy, then a midwife is likely a better choice. Midwives have been shown in the vast majority of studies to have much lower rates of complications and much higher rates of birth satisfaction in low risk births than doctors do in low risk births.
     You can learn more about the midwifery model of care at The Citizens for Midwifery website,, or at the Our Bodies, Our Selves website,
Which ever care provider you choose, doctor or midwife, it is important to pick a provider whom you trust, who treats you with respect, and who has faith in you and your body to birth your baby. Interview several care providers before you settle on one.


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