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  • Writer's pictureHannah Burba, CPM


This is a question many people have!

Let’s break it down:

A DOULA is a support person for the birthing family.

A doula has no medical training and may serve as a physical and emotional guide for a family moving through the birth process.

The role of a doula is unregulated, which means there are no necessary requirements, experience or training required for someone to begin advertising oneself as a doula.

Doulas may be trained to emotionally support someone through an abortion, miscarriage, or birth.

Doulas may lead childbirth education classes, cook nourishing meals for a postpartum family, offer general childcare and light home cleaning for a postpartum family, and/or offer emotional support for a family throughout a pregnancy journey.

The word doula derives from Greek and translates to “walk with woman,” and it has become a sort of catch-all phrase to encapsulate a number of different people playing a number of different roles around the childbearing years.

Doulas are often self-employed, and may promote themselves as experts in different niches- it’s a good idea to get clear on what the level of experience a particular doula has before hiring them.

Here is some more information on doulas- this is the organization that I trained with back when I was working as a doula!

MIDWIVES, at least in Maryland that hold licenses, are considered healthcare professionals by the state and allowed to practice midwifery outside of the hospital setting.

We are licensed to provide care for a client throughout a low-risk pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum period and their newborn in the immediate postpartum period.

Midwives have gone through extensive clinical training, including didactic learning from nationally accredited schools and experiential learning through years of apprenticeships- mine included Hospital, birth centers and home birth experience. Please read my blog on my journey to midwifery to learn more about my own personal journey.

Ask midwives you consult with about their experiences- we have been shaped by the births we have attended and we all have very unique lessons we have learned and folded into our care.

Midwives are trained and capable of obtaining ultrasounds, drawing and interpreting laboratory tests, providing prenatal care, monitoring and evaluating the condition of the pregnant client and fetus, facilitating a safe labor and birth utilizing medications and tools (such as oxygen, suture equipment…etc. see my post “what I carry to a birth” for more information).

We are trained and hold certifications in Neonatal Resuscitation, CPR and have passed a national exam in Midwifery to become Certified Professional Midwives.

We have all gone through the Board of Nursing in the state of Maryland to be eligible to hold a license and to practice here in our state. We are strictly regulated in what we can and can’t do and undergo frequent recertification continuing education classes and trainings to renew and keep our licenses up to date.

We are also trained in the history of birth, the history of how birth moved from the home to the hospital setting and have been very intentional about the paths we have chosen to practice outside of the modern medical system.

Many of us are involved in social justice issues and are deeply passionate about changing our communities for the better by empowering families through their birth experiences.

Midwives and doulas generally work well together- there are many overlaps in the areas of interest we all hold. Some insurances will reimburse for both doula and midwifery care.

The more information a family has about what their options are for care and support during their pregnancy and parenting journeys, the better.

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