Certified Nurse Midwife vs. Doula – What?s the Difference?

You?ve found out your pregnant, and you?re full of excitement. You are planning well and preparing for this baby every step of the way. Of course, you also want a good team of professionals behind you. You are looking to choose a certified nurse midwife or a doula. Which one should you choose? What?s the difference in a certified nurse midwife vs. a doula?

What is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)?

Certified Nurse Midwives are licensed healthcare providers that treat women from adolescence to menopause. They have all sorts of responsibilities, including exams, patient counseling, writing prescriptions, as well as educating parents and patients. They help women before, during, and after labor as well as throughout the reproductive and post-reproductive life cycle, providing gynecological and well-woman care as well. Midwives can deliver babies at birth centers, hospitals, or at the home of the mother. They operate under the idea that birth is a natural process and should be respected as such. They emphasize patient education and patient driven care.

If you decide to hire a CNM for your pregnancy, there are different kinds of services you can expect from them. They can perform physical examinations during pregnancy and labor, as well as after birth. CNM/s also run prenatal tests and prescribe supplements or medication.

CNM?s will also ensure you have a comfortable and safe labor and delivery. Though there are many complications that CNM?s manage, they don?t hesitate to involve the physicians they collaborate with, if needed for your care. During pregnancy, as well as after delivery, they also provide advice and education, as well as answer any questions.

Outside of pregnancy, CNM?s also provide education, regarding general health and medical care, reproductive health, contraception, nutrition, exercise, breastfeeding, and infant care.

CNM?s are midwives with a nursing background who complete additional academic and clinical training and are prepared at the Master?s or Doctorate level. They are board certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board, and are state licensed as Advanced Practice Nurses and Certified Nurse Midwives. It has been shown that hiring a midwife reduces the likelihood of birth by cesarean and preterm birth, and it increases the satisfaction of care and rates of breastfeeding.

What is a Doula?

A doula is also known as a ?birth coach? or ?birth companion.? They are dedicated support people for you during your birth, and sometimes, postpartum care. Doulas have varied backgrounds and training, but many professional doulas are certified through DONA, an organization that regulates standards and continuing education. ?Doulas do not need to have any formal obstetric education, and are not a part of your clinical care team.

Their main role is to help create the best experience possible when bringing a baby into the world through education, advocacy and physical support.

They can also be there to support you postpartum and help you with breastfeeding. Lastly, a good doula knows what she knows and what questions should be directed to other health professionals.

Throughout history, women have typically had other women support them through birth. Over time, this has gotten lost. There are scientific trials that show the benefits of having a support person before, during, and shortly after birth. This includes better psychological and physical outcomes for both mother and baby. That?s why hiring a doula can be so beneficial during pregnancy, and a great addition to any birth team!


Still have some questions? If you’d like more information, please call our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment.

How do Nurse Midwives differ from an Obstetrician?

A midwife is a medical professional with specialized training in women?s healthcare. She will offer you expert care and support throughout your pregnancy and beyond.

Midwives recognize that each family has their own personal, religious and cultural beliefs. They encourage families to ask questions, spend a lot of time with you listening to your concerns, and provide information so you can make informed choices and decisions based on what is right for you.

The Scope of Midwifery

While most people think of midwives in terms of pregnancy, most nurse midwives focus on a wide range of healthcare needs throughout a woman?s life. Not only do they offer expert care during labor and birth, but they can also provide care for annual gynecological exams, family planning needs, general health and menopausal care.

Midwives may deliver babies at birthing centers, homes, and they also provide care in hospitals. They are a great option for women who prefer as little medical intervention as possible.

Types of Midwives

There are several different types of midwives, and each has their own level of training.

  • A Certified Nurse-Midwife is a registered nurse with a graduate degree in midwifery. They have passed the national certification exam of the American Midwifery Certification Board. Like obstetricians, they are able to prescribe medications, and treatments as needed.
  • A Certified Midwife has a bachelor?s degree in a subject other than nursing, a graduate degree in midwifery and has passed the national certification exam. They provide the same services as Certified Nurse-Midwives.
  • A Certified Professional Midwife obtains training through apprenticeship or an accredited education program. While they can provide pregnancy and postpartum care, they are not able to prescribe medications.
  • Other midwives such as those known as lay midwives practice midwifery but haven?t received formal education or passed a national exam.

Midwives Vs. Obstetricians

Both midwives and obstetricians are skilled in providing care for women during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. Midwives offer a natural, holistic approach to pregnancy and birth. In most cases, they spend more time with you than an OBGYN would, including time spent supporting you while you are in labor. They are experts in low-risk pregnancy and birth. They are not able to perform surgeries.

Obstetricians are doctors who are experts in pregnancy and birth, and they are also trained to handle any complications that may come up. This means they can handle high-risk pregnancies and perform surgeries.

Choosing Between a Midwife and an Obstetrician

Deciding whether to use a midwife or an OBGYN is a personal decision. There are some factors that may affect your decision in one direction or the other. For example, if you have certain medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure or pregnant with multiples, you will probably require an obstetrician to monitor your pregnancy, although your midwife may be able to co-manage your pregnancy with the obstetrician.

If you are looking for a provider who isn?t likely to use medical intervention and will offer personalized care, you may want to use a midwife. You will probably find a midwife is easily accessible to any questions or concerns you have throughout your pregnancy and she will be present throughout labor and delivery.

?At NSAGO we?re proud to say we have the largest private midwifery practice in the area. You can learn more about our midwives here. If you want to see if working with a midwife is a good option for you, contact us at our Wilmette or Glenview office.