Midwives and Doulas - What's the Difference?

I see this question asked a lot: “what’s the difference between a midwife and a doula?”

The answer is actually: “a lot” BUT there are some major differences that you should know before deciding if either (or both) is right for you:

Focus of care

Midwives are medical professionals, and they cover everything on the clinical side of your pregnancy and birth. During your pregnancy they order tests, check your blood pressure, and your baby’s heart rate. During your labour and birth your midwife will do everything that you would expect a nurse or obstetrician to do, like checking your vitals, cervical dilation, and your baby’s heart tones, administering antibiotics if needed, and ultimately delivering your baby and everything that goes along with that.

Doulas, on the other hand, provide emotional, physical, and information support but do not perform any clinical tasks. Our focus is on supporting the family through a pivotal moment, whereas midwives are focusing on making sure you and your baby are safe! Your doula is the one who will be by your side throughout your birth, helping you with comfort measures, supporting your partner in supporting YOU, and helping you make informed decisions about your care - all while your midwife is monitoring you and your baby. Together they make the perfect birth team.

Let’s talk money

Midwives are covered by OHIP - yep, that’s right! There is no cost to having a midwife, the same way there is no cost to having an obstetrician or family doctor. They are entirely 100% covered by our provincial health care.

Doulas are not covered by OHIP, but they may be covered under your insurance benefits, or can be added under your Health Spending Account. Many doulas will offer payment plans or even a registry option to help offset the cost of birth support for this reason.

Regulation

Midwives are a regulated profession in Ontario - which is why they’re covered by OHIP - and every midwife must complete an intensive 4-year baccalaureate degree and placement for hands-on experience. They are specially trained to handle any emergency that could arise during birth, including resuscitation and hemorrhage.

Doulas are not yet regulated in the province, and there can be variations between the training programs that are available to doulas. In fact, certification is not a requirement to be a practicing doula, so if that’s important to you don’t be afraid to ask any potential doulas about their background, training, and continuing education. For more on my credentials feel free to see my about me page, or, you know, just ask :)

Midwives and doulas work really well together, and together can provide full spectrum birth care, covering every aspect of your needs during your birth. I’ve heard many midwives say they like when a doula walks through the door because it means they can 100% focus on all the many tasks they have during a birth. If you’re interested in finding a midwife, head on over to the Association of Ontario Midwives site to find one practicing near you, and of course, you can always hit me up if you’re interested in having one-on-one birth support.