Difference Between A Doula and A Birth Assistant

There’s a difference between a doula and a birth assistant.

The difference between a doula and a birth assistant is that a doula works for you, while a birth assistant works for a medical care provider.

The Doula

A doula is a person that you hire to work specifically with your family. Since you hire the doula directly and she has no allegiance to a specific hospital, birth center, or medical care provider, your doula is able to be present with you continuously throughout your labor.

The doula’s intent during your labor is to assist you in amplifying your intent. The complete focus is on you. You and your family are the entire reason the doula is there. Because of this, a stellar doula makes you feel catered to, well cared for, safe, comfortable, and peaceful. A doula does not perform medical tasks.

Therefore, the doula understands that your medical health is in the hands of the medical provider and the birth assistant and is able to focus her attention on the rest of the picture – the supportive and emotional aspects of welcoming the family she supports into parenthood.

The Birth Assistant

A birth assistant works directly with a medical care provider. In most instances, a birth assistant works for a midwife in a birth center. When most people hear the term “birth assistant”, they think to themselves I want a birth assistant! Your birth assistant is your doula.

The other birth assistant belongs to the midwife. Most birth assistants are doing a form of apprenticeship with a midwife, or are trying to gain experience being present at births. Their interest in birth is primarily medical. They are trained to be medical.

A birth assistant may complete tasks in conjunction with a midwife, but she may also have to help manage the administrative tasks of the birth center while you’re in labor, or run an external errand on behalf of the midwife. In most cases, the support provided by a birth assistant is not continuous.

If there’s a birth assistant, should I get a doula?

If you are interested in hiring a doula and your midwife assures you that’s unnecessary because she has birth assistants that work for her, you can ask her questions about the scope of the birth assistant and how it relates to your care as a client. Will the birth assistant transfer with you if you need to move to a hospital? Does the birth assistant work for you or for the midwife? Will the birth assistant be with you the entire time?

There are some birth assistants that are trained doulas. They’re better equipped to try to meet both roles of supporting you and working for the midwife. I think of it as being pulled into two directions.

Determining The Right Option For You

If you want continuous face to face support with someone who has time to get to know you and the ways that you are authentic as a way of integrating your personality, family, and lifestyle into the birth of your baby, a doula may be the right fit for you.

If you are happy with a team of medical birth professionals and don’t feel like you’d benefit from emotional support, comfort measures, position changes, and your very own assistant for labor, a team of providers may be the right fit for you.

Labor and birth is a very private event. You may only want necessary medical help to be present because you want to limit the people present. Or, you may want someone to help you work through labor in the way that feels right to you.

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