This is a question that I commonly see asked, but one that I have struggled to answer with conviction. I have Googled and searched all the social media channels for the ‘answer’ but keep coming up empty handed. So with that in mind I have decided to pen a blog post to explain just that..

What IS the difference between a Doula and a Student Midwife?

I often see posts like:

“I have a student midwife, I don’t need a Doula.”

“I can’t afford a Doula, so I’m getting a Student Midwife.”

“I’m using a Student Midwife as my Doula.”

But here’s the thing.. Doulas and Student Midwives are completely different.

First of all I will break down what a Student Midwife is.

A Student Midwife, as the name suggests, is a student of midwifery.

Midwifery is the health science and health profession that deals with pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period (including care of the newborn), in addition to the sexual and reproductive health of women throughout their lives. In many countries, midwifery is a medical profession (special for its independent and direct specialized education; should not be confused with the medical specialty, which depends on a previous general training). A professional in midwifery is known as a midwife. – Excerpt from Wikipedia

Midwives are amazing.. They make sure that everything is ok with birthing Mum’s and babies medically. In my opinion they are overworked and underpaid, often they are taking care of many birthing mother’s at the one time and can be stretched for time between each and the copious amounts of paperwork. I have often heard midwives say “I wish I could spend more time with the support side and less time with the paperwork”. But Midwives are governed by policies of their place of work. They are shift workers and when their shift is up, they have to hand over to the next midwife on shift regardless of which stage of labour the birthing mother is at or the connection they have formed. There are not enough midwives in the world.

That’s why Student Midwives are awesome. The more people training in the art of midwifery the better. As a Doula, I love Student Midwives. Students are training to be as amazing as fully qualified midwives, and the more natural births they attend the more normal birth will be just that.. normal.. in the future. Part of their training is to follow a certain amount of women through pregnancy and birth in order to gain experience in the variations that are birth, to improve their knowledge and amazingness. When a Student Midwife ‘follows through’ a Mum she too is governed by policies of her training academy and in a hospital setting must abide by the hospital protocols. At hospital birth Student Midwives are considered part of hospital staff so shift rules apply. If, when called in by the birthing mother, the Student Midwife has exams or placement she often must attend these instead of the birth. While many Student Midwives can be very supportive (and yay for this) their hands are tied with what they can and can’t offer as they are training in a medical profession not a support service.

Doulas of Melbourne's East - Doulas and Student Midwives

I have to admit, I myself am guilty of thinking that a Student Midwife was all I needed for support at the birth of my 5th baby. I loved her, she was so helpful to me at prenatal midwife appts and we had a great bond.. but when I went into labour she had exams and I never saw her again. To say I was crushed was an understatement. At least I helped an awesome student to become an amazing midwife, right?

Doulas, on the other hand, are not medical professionals. We are fully trained in birth support, have already attended many births and gained a wide variety of knowledge on breathing, positioning, massage and various other comfort techniques to guide you through birth the way you envisage your birth will go. We are not governed by hospital policies and know options if you don’t agree with them. We do not work shifts, so will be there for you all the way through. Doulas often work with back up Doulas that you can meet prior to birth, so if the unforeseen happens (super rare) you are not left high and dry. We are hired by you.. chosen by you.. completely yours and will be until you no longer need us.

So to wrap it up (I could waffle on forever) Student Midwives, whilst awesome, are at your birth to learn.. Doulas are at your birth to teach and support.

Do you want to help an awesome Student Midwife become an amazing midwife whilst being continually supported, massaged etc??

Did you know you can have both a Student Midwife and a Doula?

In fact, we love working together 😊