The Difference between Doulas and Midwives

Some people say a Midwife is from the waist down and a Doula is from the waist up! While this is not entirely true, it does help get the idea of how the roles differ. The meaning of “Midwife” is to be “With Woman” whereas the meaning of Doula is “in service of woman” which also gives you an idea of the differences between them. Here are some more questions that people often ask when it comes to the roles of a Doula and Midwife.

Can a Doula deliver my Baby?

No. A Doula my be very well educated about medical procedures but she is not a medical professional. She can guide and support your decisions around medical procedures but she will never perform them herself. A Midwife is a trained medical professional with both the knowledge and skill to safely deliver a baby. A Midwife is also very capable of offering gentle, motherly support during labour but she will need to be focused on your baby as well during the whole process. A Doula is devoted entirely to the support of both the mother and father (or other birth partner) during the whole process without needing to focus on the medical well being of mother and baby.

How do doctors and other medical professionals feel about Doulas?

When it comes to a doula trained by WOMBS we find that the majority of doctors and other staff find them to be an asset to the team and it is for this reason that some facilities will insist that your doula be registered with WOMBS. However, there have been cases (not just in South Africa) where untrained doulas have over-stepped their role in a birth and this has led to all doulas becoming banned from a facility. At WOMBS we devote a good proportion of our training to teaching doulas how to work well with other staff members so as to form part of a team. A WOMBS Doula will know that she may not do things like make decisions for you, speak to doctors or nurses on your behalf or refuse/give consent for procedures. Again this comes back to understanding the role of a doula as one who supports the mother & father/birth partner through the process, unlike a Midwife or Doctor who will make medical decisions or interventions.

What if my doctor or midwife doesn’t work with Doulas?

If your doctor or midwife does not work with a Doula then it is important to find out why this is. If it is due to past experience that was negative, then please contact WOMBS and we would be more than happy to arrange for a representative to speak with your care provider or provide them with more information on how we operate. If your doctor/midwife simply does not wish to allow you to have additional support, then its important to ask yourself if this is really the right person to be delivering your baby. You need to think about what motivation this care provider might have to not want an experienced support person with you to help you explore your options and make informed decisions.

Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses –

Cochrane Review – Continuous support for women during childbirth –

Our Chairlady Gayle being interviewed by eNCA on Sunday 27 March 2022 recognising the contribution to birth work during World Doula Week