What is the Difference Between a Midwife and a Doula?














Many women choose to have a birthing team to manage different aspects of childbirth. The birthing team often includes a doula and a midwife – but what’s the difference?

  • Midwife: A midwife is a trained medical professional who focuses her practice on helping women through natural birth. A midwife has the training to perform a range of medical exams and tests, guide women through prenatal care, administer pain medication and drugs to induce labor, monitor the baby’s health prior to and during birth, and perform an episiotomy and close tears and incisions.
  • Doula: A doula helps the mother with the non-medical issues of birth, providing guidance in breathing, soothing massage, and helping a mother in labor to be in the most comfortable positions. A doula is there for the comfort and care of the mother, and to act as her advocate and emotional support when decisions must be made. The name “doula” comes from a Greek word for servant. A doula does not have medical training but can be an important support during pregnancy (a pregnancy doula) or during birth (a labor doula).
  • OB/GYN: While a midwife is a trained medical professional, they do not have the level of knowledge or the extensive skills of an OB/GYN. With years of medical training, including four years of med school and four years residency in obstetrics along with other advanced training, an OB/GYN has a full range of medical skills to address difficult births, including cases in which a cesarean must be performed. Women who are considered “high risk” should ensure the entire pregnancy and birth are monitored by an experienced OB/GYN.

A Team Approach to Birth

The most important aspect of giving birth is a healthy baby. A large majority of births proceed as they should, but birth poses health risks for both mother and baby. When making decisions about the birth of your child, it is important to understand the limits of what a midwife can do, and why, as a mother, you may want to ensure you have an OB/GYN involved – for your own health and the health of your baby.

High-Risk Pregnancies

Women with certain health conditions pose a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and birth. These pregnancies must be carefully monitored by an OB/GYN. Some of the issues lead to a high-risk pregnancy higher risk include:

  • An earlier difficult birth
  • Multiple births
  • Blood disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Lupus
  • Age (35 or older)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Others

Modern Obstetrics: Empowering Mothers

Many women want a midwife, as they feel that the medical profession has failed to offer the personal compassion, care, and a focus on natural childbirth. While this may be true for some medical professionals, at Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology, we take a different approach.

Our many years in service to the women of the Virginia Beach area has led to a deep understanding of all the issues of importance to expecting mothers and their concerns about giving birth. We offer all the medical care needed with warmth, compassion, and understanding. Rather than taking an authoritarian approach, we work closely with each mother, personally guiding her through the experience so she feels empowered, confident, and prepared for what’s ahead.

The Birth Process: It is Your Decision.

As a pregnant mother, you have decisions to make about how to manage your pregnancy and birth. An OB/GYN operates with a specific model of care geared to help women have a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth. Or, you may feel that you would feel more confident in a natural setting and that a midwife would be appropriate.

When making the decision about prenatal care and childbirth, it is important that you fully understand what a midwife can (and cannot) do. All midwives are trained to identify risks during pregnancy and birth. They evaluate the health of the pregnant mother to determine the safety of attending the birth as the sole medical provider. This evaluation continues throughout pregnancy, and when certain health issues arise, will typically transfer care to an OB/GYN for the safety of mother and child.

The Best of Both Worlds

At Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology, we strive to provide our patients with the best of both worlds and work with mothers who have a midwife, doula, or both. We are often called upon to treat women who initially worked with a midwife, but developed some health condition that requires a more highly-trained professional to manage. We are here to serve the women of the community and to offer the highest quality medical care during pregnancy and birth. You can be confident that we listen, we care, and we respect your wishes. Our center was established to provide a positive, warm, patient experience. We invite you to visit us and discover a modern, mother-centered practice.