Explainer: The difference between a midwife and a doula

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GREENVILLE, Mich--When it comes to child birth, every new mother needs some sort of helping hand. Whether that support comes from a nurse, midwife or doula is completely up to them.

FOX 17 first told you about postpartum doulas a couple of months ago. Now, we're learning more about these support opportunities and birthing options for new moms.

Though many people think doulas and midwives have similar functions, they're actually very different. Not only do they have different training and certification but they have different duties.

Kristin Revere, the co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, says it’s the most common question she gets asked. Revere says to think of a doula as an expecting mother's best friend.

"We’re there to support them physically and emotionally with comfort measures and resources," Revere said.

During labor, the doula's primary job is to offer non-medical birthing techniques, including, but not limited to: position changes, massages and counter pressure.

Doulas don't deliver babies. That's a midwife.  Both do support women from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of postpartum.

It's important to note, a doula is not a substitute for a doctor. Doulas can't prescribe painkillers, but some midwives can.

"Women can see us just like they see their OB for their annual," Leslie Cornwell from Midwifery Matters in Greenville said.

Midwives deliver babies and do so at both birthing centers and at home. Most of those births are performed in a bath.

"We joke as midwives we’re lifeguards at the pools," Cornwell said. "When you take gravity away, you have that warmth. It gets your endorphins going. It gets a lot of that pressure taken off. There’s less risk of tearing."

Normally, women who choose to use a midwife want little medical intervention and have a low risk pregnancies. Cornwell admits the hospital setting isn't for everyone.

"We really encourage moving all of the time. One of the common things in the hospital is you’re lying on your back. That’s one of the hardest positions for laboring," Cornwell said. "Evidence shows you’re not not improving outcomes by doing continuous monitoring for low risk women. You’re actually increasing interventions."

However, if things do get tricky, an ambulance is called.

Cornwell values alternatives, just like new mothers value support. Whether that support comes from a midwife or doula, well that's their choice.

If you're interested in utilizing a midwife, but not sure if it's the right choice, that's okay. Cornwell holds hour long consultations, so you can figure out if she's the right fit.

If you would like to contact Midwifery Matters, call (616) 258-2386

Gold Coast Doulas' number is (616) 294-0207.

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