Midwife, OB, Doula. What’s the Difference?

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Midwife? OB? Doula? Super confused and not sure what they do or the differences between them?! You’ve come to the right place! 

Here’s a simple breakdown of what each care provider does so you can figure out which one is the best fit for you, your unique situation, and what you want for your pregnancy and birth!

midwife touching pregnant moms belly


A midwife is a care provider that provides care to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. Midwives help women have healthy pregnancies, optimal birth outcomes, and healthy recoveries postpartum. They are experts in normal birth and have been providing care to women during birth since most of human history!  

They provide respectful, comprehensive, and safe care to women as they bring their babies into this world. Midwives are experts at spotting red flags in terms of a potential health complication and can refer mothers to OB or surgical care as needed.  There are different types of midwives: Certified Midwife (CM), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), and Traditional Midwife. Learn more about midwives here


If you want to give birth in a hospital but want fewer routine interventions, and more individualized care.  If the idea of a low-intervention birth, unmedicated or minimally medicated birth or natural birth interests you.  If you are desiring to give birth at home, in a freestanding birth center, or at the hospital, a midwife is an essential member of your birth team.

ob surgeon pulling new baby from abdomen


An OB (Obstetrician) is a medical doctor and surgeon that specializes in complicated health cases in pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. They help women give birth as safely as possible when there is a known health complication with either mom or baby. They can perform cesarean surgeries when needed and they provide care in the hospital setting. Their approach to care is typically more medical and less individualized than out-of-hospital midwifery care.


If you have unique or complicated health situation or know you need a cesarean surgery to give birth safely, an OB is a great provider to have. If you want a medicated birth, epidural, cesarean, or more of a high-tech approach to your birth an OB can provide that.

doula helping pregnant woman


A doula is a professionally trained labor support person. They are not a provider of medical care. They provided physical, emotional, and informational support during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum.  Doulas fill a very important gap in maternity care. They are with you continuously throughout labor (unlike your care provider who is there only a short period of time) and is there to support you emotionally and to suggest and provide comfort measures. They hold space for you and your birth experience.


You would want a doula if you want a go-to person for questions on comfort measures during pregnancy and labor.  When you want more information on certain topics related to pregnancy, birth, or postpartum.  When you want your partner or husband to have someone help them know how to help you during labor without them having to be an expert on birth!  

When you want another supportive person who knows what you’re going through and who is going to give you their undivided attention throughout labor to help you achieve the best birth outcome possible.  When you want an unmedicated or low-intervention birth or want to try and avoid unnecessary birth interventions.  To help suggest and provide comfort measures. To help create an environment that encourages a healthy birth.  

When you want an epidural and want help coping before you can get the medication and to help encourage progression and comfort after the epidural is in place.  If you’re having a cesarean and you want extra emotional and informational support. To have someone stay with you if dad is with the baby. Doulas provide great emotional support to alleviate or soften any fears surrounding childbirth.  

Doulas support you and your birth preferences, whatever those might be for you personally. They can give professional referrals for good lactation consultants, OBs, Midwives, etc. Assist you with breastfeeding or refer you to the right people if it’s a more complicated situation. The list can go on and on!  

Learn more about the benefits of a doula here.


Some other types of care providers and options are: Perinatologist or Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, Family Practitioner (FP), Monitrice, or Free Birth/Unassisted Birth.


Choosing a care provider that is a good fit is so important! Every pregnancy, baby, and mama is different! Everyone has different needs and preferences. Do your research and interview more than 1 care provider to see who might be a good fit for you and your situation. What matters is that you feel safe, comfortable, heard, and respected. Don’t settle for anything less, and if you feel at any point your care provider is no longer a good fit, switch! You’re in charge, you call the shots. Much love mama’s, know you’ll do great!

  • Download your FREE new care provider questionnaire here.
  • Find a Midwife here.
  • Find an OB, their cesarean rate, and pricing here.
  • Find a Doula here.
    Your doula can give you referrals to the good OBs and Midwives in your area.
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midwife, ob, doula, whats the difference
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Kristen Mantell

Kristen Mantell

Creator of Wild World Mama, LLC
Strategic Brand & Creative Consultant for Birth Workers
Former Birth Doula & Certified Childbirth Educator

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