Learn about maternity care at Tidelands Health.

Midwife vs. doula: What’s the difference?


Midwife vs. doula: What’s the difference?

OB/GYN, midwife, doula — if you’re an expectant parent, it can be easy to confuse the different types of professionals who might assist you during labor and delivery.
“Midwife” and “doula,” in particular, are terms that might be new, particularly if you’ve never had a baby before. And while you may choose one or both, there’s a big difference between the two roles, explains Tidelands Health certified nurse midwife Deborah McKee.
As a certified nurse-midwife, McKee provides emotional support and a wide range of medical care to women, including labor and delivery care, as well as pre- and post-natal care.
Whether a patient would want to hire a doula varies greatly, McKee says. But they can be an added bonus, depending on your personal preference, financial situation and whether or not you have other sources of support that will be with you during childbirth.
“It’s much more common among first-time moms who haven’t been through the process before or are seeking unmedicated birth,” she says. “In that case, the extra emotional support may be desired.”

Different roles

Among the biggest differences between doulas and certified nurse-midwives are the training they receive and the scope of services they can provide. Doulas are not required to be licensed, but they often go through training programs and may choose to pursue certification.

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They can’t give medical advice or prescribe medication, but may coach women on breathing techniques, relaxation and positional changes that can help in labor and delivery, as well as provide massage and postpartum support.
Doulas are not a substitute for physicians or certified nurse-midwives, who are medical professionals.
Certified nurse-midwives hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and some have doctoral degrees. They also complete a midwifery education program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education and pass examinations to earn designation as a certified nurse-midwife.
In South Carolina, certified nurse-midwives are certified as advanced practice registered nurses, meaning they can write prescriptions and see patients for any number of reasons, including routine primary and gynecological care.

Lay midwives

In searching for a care team, patients may also come across  lay midwives, who are distinct from certified nurse-midwives. Lay midwives are not required to have formal medical training or certification. All midwives at Tidelands Health are certified nurse-midwives.

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Ultimately, when choosing your childbirth team, the key is to find professionals you trust who offer the level of care and support you need, McKee says.
“At Tidelands Health, our entire team is dedicated to providing you a warm, memorable and safe birth experience,” she says. “We provide integrated care at every stage of pregnancy from prenatal care through delivery and beyond.”
In addition to providing a comprehensive range of care for expectant mothers, Tidelands Health sponsors educational and outreach programs, including childbirth classes, a prenatal education series, a monthly breastfeeding support group, lactation education sessions and more, to help mothers maintain good health for themselves and their newborns.
In recognition of the high-quality childbirth program at Tidelands Health, Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in 2023 became the first in South Carolina and second in the U.S. to earn advanced certification in perinatal care from The Joint Commission.
Tidelands Waccamaw was also the first hospital in the state to earn the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation recognizing hospitals and birthing centers that offer optimal care for mothers and their babies.

Tidelands Health certified nurse midwife Deborah McKee provides a broad range of care at the Georgetown and Holmestown Road locations of Tidelands Health Women’s Center. She is accepting new patients.

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