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MIDWIVES AND DOULAS What's the Difference?

Chances are if you are pregnant, or planning to be pregnant you have heard the terms "Midwife" and "Doula" used a lot more in recent years. So - what's the difference between the two? A Midwife is a university trained primary health care provider for a low risk, healthy, pregnant woman. Our community is fortunate in having two midwives who offer such care. A Doula
is, specifically, a Labour Coach. There are over forty trained women in Simcoe County who provide this type of service on a volunteer basis.

With the number of family doctors who practice obstetrics declining, it is comforting for young families to know that there is exceptional care offered in South Simcoe and its surrounding communities. Our midwives are based in Alliston and have hospital privileges at Stevenson Memorial Hospital and at the South Lake Regional Health Care Centre in Newmarket. The popular myth is that if you have a midwife as your caregiver, you have to have your baby at home. Not true. Although a lot of people do opt for home births, there are also many that would prefer the comfort of knowing that the interventions that a hospital can offer are close at hand, if necessary.

Midwifery care can start as early as your pregnancy is confirmed and last until six weeks after your baby is born. The good news is that midwifery care is fully funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health. An initial visit with your midwife can last up to seventy-five minutes and each subsequent visit is approximately forty five minutes long. Prenatal care with midwives is complete and comprehensive; they look after you throughout your entire pregnancy. You alternate visits with each of the midwives so that you can get to know each of them as they get to know you. It is nice to know that these same women will be attending you at your birth. Midwives respect each woman's culture and traditions. They monitor your pregnancy and your general health. Midwives can order blood tests and ultrasounds. Should problems arise, midwives often consult with obstetricians and have a good working relationship with these specialists.

Your midwives stay with you throughout your labour, birth and up to four hours after the birth of your baby providing primary care including monitoring the labour, maternal and fetal wellbeing and managing the birth. After the baby is born, the midwives will visit you three to five times during the first two weeks to care for both mother and baby. After that, visits are done in their office. During the six week period after the birth, the Midwives are available for any questions and concerns regarding the general health of the mother and/or baby. They are supportive in choices regarding things such as prenatal care, birth plans, breast/bottle feeding and circumcision and can provide you with information so that you may make an educated decision on these important issues.

"Doula" refers to a supportive companion (not a friend or loved one) professionally trained to provide labour support. She performs no clinical tasks but Doulas offer non-medical skills such as massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures. Quite often, a Doula will meet her client several weeks or months before the baby is actually due but on occasion Doulas are called in to help women in the hospital if the staff feels that it would be beneficial to the labouring woman. Doulas also work with midwifery clients, if desired.

Doulas do not replace partners but instead offer assistance to partners who want to play an active support role. A Doula provides physical, emotional, and informational support to women and their partners during labour and birth and acts as an advocate in a hospital setting. Doulas can offer help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. She can assist families in gathering information about the course of their labour and their options. She is there for continuous emotional reassurance and comfort. After the birth, the Doula is available as a resource for information and assistance during the first few weeks of living with your new baby.

If you are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, explore your alternatives. Doulas and Midwives are two options worth investigating. Caring Hands Midwifery Services can be reached at 705.435.2406 and Simcoe Birth Services (Doulas) can be reached by calling 705.435.3715 or 905.729.3098.



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