No, I’m not a midwife. We might both work in birth, but we do very different jobs. Complementary jobs, yes, but they’re definitely not the same.

A midwife is a clinical attendant, similar to a nurse (or may also be a nurse), who is skilled in managing the physiological process of labour. They know how to check dilation, take blood pressure, interpret a heart trace, administer drugs, and manage the enormous task of considering the medical parts of pregnancy and labour. They typically work on behalf of the woman, and do a wonderful job in helping bring pregnancy and birth back to woman-centred care.

Midwives are amazing. Just like doulas are amazing. But a doula is not a midwife. A doula is a trained support person. 

I am here for you emotionally, mentally, physically, and, if it’s your thing, spiritually.  

Want to hear your baby’s heart beat? Call your midwife.    

Want to know your fundal height? Call your midwife.  

Want to know how dilated you are? Call your midwife.

Want some help breathing to manage your labour? That’s me!

Want some great ways to focus? Want some massage? Want acupressure? That’s me!  

I can help you tap into your natural pain relief measures, as well as offer you a whole host of non-medical pain relief tools.   I can help you find comfortable positions, help you find your labour zone and help you protect that zone.

I am constantly with you as much as you need me to be.

Great, doesn’t my midwife do that? In theory, yes. But in reality, usually not. And not because they don’t want to be, but because midwives have clinical responsibilities, exorbitant amounts of paperwork, and work in shifts. This means there are gaps, and I fill those gaps.

I don’t work shifts.

You contract me for your birth, whether it falls neatly into a shift slot or not. I don’t have a roster, so if you go into labour, I’ll be there. If it takes longer than the time frame we’ve agreed on, you get covered by my back-up (who you will have had the chance to meet during your pregnancy and feel comfortable with) while I take a short rest. This way I can join you again refreshed and give you the unwavering focus you need.  

You don't have to worry about who you'll get on the day.

I meet with you during your pregnancy so we can grow a great relationship, so I can best support you to have the birth you want. Instead of meeting a new caregiver each appointment, you and I work together. And on the big day? It’s me again.  

The information I provide isn't bound by hospital policy.

I can’t give medical advice, but I can give you evidence-based information on any topic you need me to, even if it’s not well known. I don’t tell you what decisions to make, I’m just here to support you in those decisions, because I’m not hired by the hospital – I’m hired by you.  

I don't replace your midwife or obstetrician.

We have different roles, and they do a whole lot of things I can’t do. But then, I do a whole lot of things they often won’t do, or just don’t have time to.

I’m here to be your coach, your cheer squad, your own personal meditation guide, and give you that amazing double hip squeeze. However, I can work with your midwife or doctor so together we support you to have your best labour. I don’t focus on clinical tasks at all – my job is to focus wholly on you. So while they’re doing their irreplaceable roles, I’m here just for you.  

I also don’t replace your partner, we also work as a team.

In fact, I can help them be the best support partner you ever imagined.  You know those stories of partners gaming/Facebooking/nervously pacing/constantly ducking out for food/saying really unhelpful stuff? In my experience, no partner wants to do the wrong thing. They just don’t always know what the right thing is. And even if they do, they often need a fair bit of help working out how to do it. And this is where I come in. Rather than replace your partner, I reinforce the amazing bond you already have.

The impact of using a doula can mean you are:

  • less likely to need pain relief
  • more likely to have a shorter labour
  • less likely to need to use artificial oxytocin to speed up or start your labour
  • less likely to need forceps
  • more likely to have a vaginal delivery, if that’s what you want
  • more likely to report having a positive experience in birth*

I could go on. I really could. Supporting you in your birth is what I love doing. I love believing in your birth, in your ability to birth, in your ability to have the birth you want.  

I’m not a midwife. I don’t want to be a midwife. They do a wonderful, unparalleled job, and I have enormous respect for them.

But I’m a doula, who supports you –  your birth, your way.  

*For more information regarding this study please refer to Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth Klaus, Kennel, 1993. 

Anna is a Childbirth Educator and Doula, working in Canberra and surrounds.  

© Anna Siebert and Anna Siebert Blog, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anna Siebert and Anna Siebert Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Anna is a Motherhood Mentor, who works with busy mums to beat overwhelm, stop yelling and enjoy parenting. As a Childbirth Educator, Anna helps parents prepare for their birth to overcome fear, feel confident and come out the other side of birth positive and empowered. She is the founder of Calm in the Chaos, where mums learn how to feel calm, joyful and confident in modern parenting, and Preparing for Birth, where parents learn how to have a positive birth regardless of how their birth unfolds. Her mission is to take the fear out of birth and the overwhelm out of parenting. Anna runs live workshops, online courses and trainings, and is the author of Preparing for Birth.