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Historically, before Doctors became the primary carers in pregnancy and at birth, midwives and doulas attended to pregnant women.

In recent times, women have again been embracing more natural ways to give birth, forgoing medication, birthing at home or at Birthing Centers, and employing the services of midwives and doulas.

If you are considering a natural birth, you will undoubtedly want to know more about midwifery and doula practices. There are many differences between a traditional or medically-managed birth versus a natural childbirth either at home or in the hospital.

What does a doula do?

A doula typically has an intimate role and is a professional birth assistant who supports you during labor and sometimes post-partum. She provides physical as well as emotional support during childbirth.

Unlike midwives, doulas attend in a non-medical capacity but act as your advocate, friend, support person and birth coach.

Doulas services traditionally include:

assistance with birth plans

physical comfort techniques



breathing assistance

labor positions education

pre-natal and post-natal physical and mental support

A midwife is a qualified professional from an institution of her country, which enables her to help a pregnant woman in delivering a baby.

The World Health Organization defines a midwife as: A person who, having been regularly admitted to a midwifery educational program that is duly recognized in the country in which it is located, has successfully completed the prescribed course of studies in midwifery and has acquired the requisite qualifications to be registered and/or legally licensed to practice midwifery. The educational program may be an apprenticeship, a formal university program, or a combination.

Pregnant women, depending on the laws of their country, have a choice when it comes to caregivers. You can usually choose to have either a doctor or midwife attend you.

Midwives usually take a more holistic approach to childbirth and offer women with healthy, low-risk pregnancies the choice of having their babies at home or in a hospital or birth center.

Reading Resources:

Giving Birth: A Journey Into the World of Mothers and Midwives by Catherine Taylor

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin

Mothering Magazine's Having a Baby, Naturally: The Mothering Magazine Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Peggy O'Mara

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read

Birthing from Within by Pam England

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Birth Journeys - positive birth stories to encourage and inspire by Leonie MacDonald

The Doula Advantage: Your Complete Guide to Having an Empowered and Positive Birth with the Help of a Professional Childbirth Assistant by Rachel Gurevich


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