Doula vs. Midwife: Understanding the Difference

Christian Healthcare Ministries

Editor’s note: Doulas are ineligible for sharing. Please refer to the CHM Guidelines and applicable web pages for the most up-to-date information regarding sharing eligibility, CHM membership, and ministry news.

Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or expecting, you have plans to make! You’ll need a helping hand, from pre-pregnancy and pregnancy through delivery and after the birth.

As you budget for a baby and think about home birth vs. hospital birth, you’ll want to explore the benefits of birthing helpers, birthing coaches, and the differences between a doula and a midwife.

Pregnancy, Birthing, and Motherhood: It’s All a Labor of Love

”Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.” – Psalm 22:9 (NLT)


Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), newborns show off God’s amazing handiwork (Ephesians 2:10). Newborns remind us of life’s big and small miracles.

But before newborns leave the womb, there are months of pregnancy and hours of labor. Throughout pregnancy and motherhood, there’ll be happy times and times when you may “cry by day and have no rest by night” (Psalm 22:2, NIV).

Still, with trust in God and perseverance, joy returns to the weary soul (Psalm 30:5). A newborn’s first cry reminds families why the mothering adventure is a labor of love. It’s sacrificial. It’s rewarding. And it’s totally worth it!


Doula or midwife? CHM explores the differences.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Doulas and midwives are trained to be “Mom’s helpers.” Both are involved in the birthing process, but their qualifications, training, and duties are different. Professional requirements for doulas and midwives vary with individuals, training or certification, and changing laws and standards of care. Ask local health officials for current regulations.

What Does a Doula Do?

Doulas “mother the mother.” They nurture, support, and offer expert guidance at every step. They give personalized, non-medical support. They also support fathers, family, and friends. Most doulas have extensive training and experience. Some are certified or professionally licensed. However, they’re not a substitute for a medically trained midwife or doctor.

Types of doulas include:

  • Doulas who assist throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery
  • Birth doulas who assist from pregnancy through childbirth
  • Post-partum doulas who assist after childbirth and at home


Download Christian Healthcare Ministries Maternity guide here.


Whether you give birth with or without medication or have a complex delivery (including surgical C-section) doulas can help. Research shows that mothers benefit from nurturing, connection, and labor support from someone outside a woman’s immediate network.


Birth doulas may offer:

  • Emotional and practical support – Doulas discuss birthing options, talk about what to expect, address concerns, and ease anxiety. They guide you through preparations, labor, childbirth, and post-partum care. Most birth doulas also include one post-partum home visit.

  • Physical support – A doula keeps mom comfortably positioned as labor progresses. Doulas may offer breathing techniques, a soothing touch for an aching back, and complementary therapies such as aromatherapy or acupressure. They may use massage and strategic counterpressure to assist with birthing.

  • Birth partner support – Whether your birth partner is your husband, mom, or someone else, your supporters need support, too! Doulas can answer questions and meet personal needs, from serving herbal tea to running an errand.

  • Information and advocacy – Doulas can connect you with research-supported resources for well-informed decisions. They’ll help communicate your needs to medical staff and advocate for your best care.

  • Postpartum doula care – Doulas ease your transition from birthing to motherhood. They may assist with:
    • Physical and emotional recovery after childbirth
    • New routines at home
    • Ways to comfort and bond with your newborn
    • Learning basics, such as breastfeeding, feeding, and sleeping routines
    • Teaching nutrition, wellness, and self-care for you and your family
    • Other infant care needs, from assembling cribs to safe sleep practices

"Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast." – Psalm 22:9 (NLT)

What does a midwife do?

A midwife is a certified, clinically trained medical professional. Midwives offer evaluation, support, and care for a safe, healthy pregnancy, and childbirth. Most midwives are either registered nurses (certified nurse midwives or CNMs) or certified midwives (CMs) with post-graduate training and certification. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that midwife-led deliveries offer medical benefits and may lower the chance of needing C-section delivery.

Services vary, but most certified midwives can offer comprehensive healthcare services such as:

  • Preventive care
  • Making a birth plan
  • Hospital admission and discharge
  • Gynecological exams, prenatal care, and fetal monitoring
  • Assessing and managing risks for baby and mother
  • Writing prescriptions
  • Giving labor-inducing drugs and pain medications
  • Ordering and interpreting lab tests
  • Delivering a baby vaginally
  • Detecting and managing birthing complications, taking emergency measures if needed
  • Caring for mother and baby after birth
  • Ordering home healthcare and medical devices
  • Newborn care, including nutrition, bonding, and breastfeeding
  • Post-partum guidance for mothers, encouraging healthy sleep, diet, and exercise
  • Referring to medical specialists if needed


If you plan to give birth at home, experts recommend having a midwife or doctor on hand for safe, medical monitoring and care of the mother and baby.



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