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The Role of Doulas and Midwives in Improving Maternal Health Outcomes

It is important for expectant mothers to have support during their pregnancy. Traditional support is often provided by family members, but did you know that doulas and midwives are trained professionals that can provide support before, during, and after pregnancy? Both are trained birthing advocates with similar roles but there are some key differences in their roles and how they support mom and baby.

Roles of Doulas

Doulas are trained and experienced birthing advocates that act as guardians of birth. They provide support for mom and baby through encouragement and advocating on behalf of the mother. A doula’s role during the birthing journey includes being the protector of mom’s emotional well-being as well as providing emotional support through both emotional and physical intimacy. They push for empowering the mother to make her own decisions surrounding her birth as well as stating her wants and needs. While they provide support, they do not provide any clinical care.

Role of Midwives

Midwives are trained healthcare professionals that are similar to doulas. They also provide support to the mom before, during, and after pregnancy. In addition to providing support, they also provide an array of clinical care. These services can range from:

  • physical examinations,

  • prescribing medications,

  • admitting, managing, and discharging patients, and

  • ordering and interpreting laboratory and/or diagnostic testing.

There are three types of midwives recognized in the United States and the differences are based on the training in which they receive.

  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are midwives that are nurses trained as certified midwives through a midwifery program.

  • Certified Midwives (CMs) are certified trained midwives that receive the same training as a CNM but do not have prior nursing experience.

  • Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are midwives trained through a midwifery school or program.

While there are similarities and differences as birthing advocates, the use of doulas and midwives have been linked to improved birthing experience for both mother and baby. Research has shown that births assisted by doulas or midwives have mothers that are more likely to have vaginal births, experience low-interventions during birth, shorter duration of birth, as well as the mother feeling satisfied with the care that they received. They also assist mom and baby with breastfeeding as they provide continuous support after labor and delivery.

Doulas and midwives are proven to improve birth outcomes.

As birthing advocates, studies have shown that doulas and midwives positively impact the birthing experience. This support is greatly needed given that BIPOC mothers die at much higher rates due to maternal complications, compared to their white women. Doulas and midwives are key to improving birthing outcomes and reducing maternal mortality and other birthing complications

To learn more, visit our Mamas 4 Life health education campaign webpage.

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