February 19, 2017

Understanding the Differences Between a Doula, Midwife and OB/GYN

Special thanks to RaeTeeThreads for allowing me to use her labor pictures. She is a beautiful momma and an amazing artist. See more about her on her RaeTeeThreads Etsy Shop by clicking: HERE

Hello All! My name is Crystal and I am a wife, mom of five, birth doula, and placenta encapsulation specialist. I love all things birth and pregnancy related and I am deeply passionate about parenting, mothers, and living a natural life. I live in Clermont, Florida with my husband of ten years and five children ages 8, 6, 3, 2, and pregnant! My desire is to let you all get to know me and what drives my passion of birth and parenting. But first things first – where to start??!!

I often get the questions, “What made you become a doula?” or, “Doula? Is that like a midwife?”

Photo Credit: RaeTeeThreads

When I explain my profession to people they are amazed at the different types of health professionals. I want to un-muddy these waters for those reading and make things much clearer. We are all not the same and we are all not even medical.  There are three main types of labor/birth professionals: Doulas, Midwives, and OB/GYNs.


OG/GYN Doctor
The most widely understood is an OG/GYN Doctor. This is a medical professional that has gone through medical school and specialized in obstetrics (babies) and gynecological (female parts) areas of study. They are surgeons and this is the main key to focus on. When you go to a, OB/GYN for your pregnancy you are seeking the help of a trained surgeon. That is a BIG DEAL! Its incredible that just 50 years ago the idea of a surgeon attending your birth was outrageous. Now, it’s the norm. These professionals deliver typically in hospital and can perform caesarean sections. They have legal capabilities to deliver babies at home too, but often they choose to stick to a hospital for emergent situations. These professionals take all kinds of insurance, and are also the highest paid. (Though knowing quite a few, being a doctor isn’t quite as lucrative as one may think).


Next are midwives. These professionals are separated into two categories, Certified Nursing Midwives (CNM), and Certified Professional Midwives (CPM, or LM) (or Licensed Midwives). CNMs are registered nurses that have advanced training in midwifery. They must complete a full nursing degree before going onto becoming a midwife. They attend births in a hospital, birth center, or at home.  They are usually regulated or overseen by an OB/GYN. These professionals can prescribe and give medications and they also deliver babies. They are NOT surgeons and cannot perform emergency c-sections or any other female surgery. They too may take all kinds of insurance and are second highest paid.

CPMs or LM are birth professionals that have undergone extensive training in all things pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They may or may not have been nurses first. Their licensure doesn’t require a nursing degree first as their training covers the education necessary. They have the same education in female health and prenatal as a nurse, only they skip the unnecessary bits that don’t apply, such as elderly care and such. These professionals typically operate without being overseen by a doctor and work autonomously. They provide home or birth center births only and do not have hospital privileges.  They can administer only certain medications during labor, but cannot prescribe medications.  They are limited to only low risk births as well. Each state has their own particular regulations for these professionals and therefore the CPM/LM must license in their own state for this reason. These professionals may or may not take insurance and are the third highest paid.


Lastly there are Doulas, or birth partners. Anyone can be a doula. We are not medically trained and are not responsible for anything medically related. We are labor supporters in an entirely different ways. We educate, encourage, and physically help moms endure labor. We are trained in basic childbirth education (though many of us have extensive training in childbirth education). We also provide basic lactation support (though many of us have extensive lactation support education). We attend all types of labors/births: home, birth centers, hospitals…etc. We have no licensing requirements and can choose to certify under the organization that we train in, but it is not necessary. Select insurances can cover some of the costs, but often do not. We are often the person that stays with the mother the longest through labor. Statistically speaking, hiring a doula lowers a mother’s risk of c section by 28%. See the review of this here. Doulas are unsung heroes and are slowly on the rise in America. Doulas, or labor supporters are more recognized worldwide, as are midwives.

Now to answer the first question, why did I become a doula…SO MANY REASONS!

First, I was already doing it without knowing what IT actually was, or that I could train to doula more effectively. I was attending friends’ births and labors and helping with massage and acupressure. It was as I was looking into a home birth for my third child that I realized if I was going to attempt a natural labor I wanted all the help I could get. My doula, who is also an amazing Christian woman and dear friend, was amazing at informing me, and at making me feel ready for my natural birth. She answered every question I could have asked and made me feel completely empowered to show my labor who is BOSS.

I began training while I was pregnant with my daughter and finished before she was born. I attended numerous births and went onto certify in placenta encapsulation (more on that in another post). I had a rocking home birth and KNEW this was my calling. Aside from being a mom, God saw fit to gift me with a compassionate and competent heart to help moms through their labors. I have seen home births, hospital births, birth center, and even c sections (yes, up close and personal, not through a glass window). Through all of these experiences I have learned a ton and given even more.

This is my ministry!

Attending labors has made me feel as complete as becoming a mom and wife. It is a true blessing to do every day what I love and feel passionate about. The old adage is right, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.  I was also blessed to work at a midwives’ office and had amazing education through them. I had clients hand over fist and learned so much from those women. I will always cherish those times and be grateful for their knowledge they poured into me.

My future goal is to go onto either labor and delivery nursing or midwifery, but for now my young family needs their mommy and I am quite content with being a doula. If anyone knew my schedule,  you’d completely understand how full my plate is! In all this experience and time I continue to go back and thank God for all of it. He was the one that designed me to love this field of work and gifted me to do it. As we go on I will be pulling from this education and knowledge to help all of you in any way I can. I have a few products coming in for me to review and am excited to share what I find! Until then, ta ta for now!



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Crystal Ferrell, Being a Doula Mami and Supporting Motherhood Contributing Columnist

Crystal Ferrell, Being a Doula Mami and Supporting Motherhood Contributing Columnist

“Being a Doula Mami”, is a pregnancy, birth, and parenting contribution. She is also the Supporting Motherhood Contributing Columnist. Crystal offers advice and support on parenting and all things from conception through postpartum care. She is also a Birth Doula and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. Connect with Crystal on Facebook: facebook.com/stalfaces Questions? Ask Crystal at stalfaces@icloud.com
Crystal Ferrell, Being a Doula Mami and Supporting Motherhood Contributing Columnist

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  1. Ethel Sinclair says:

    I’m a mother of 3 and a grandmother of 5 and I still didn’t know the differences between a doula and a midwife! Thank you for explaining. I will be sending this to my daughter-in-law, who is pregnant with grandchild number 6.

  2. Sharon Anderson says:

    I really appreciate the breakdown of the differences between doulas and midwives. We are considering a more natural birth or possible home birth for our next pregnancy and reading your post was helpful.

    We live in Idaho but do you know or recommend any directories where you can find local doulas or midwives in your home state? Thank you again!

    • Crystal Ferrell says:

      Wonderful! Aside from word of mouth of family and friends I found that doulamatch.net is a great tool to use. When I worked with my midwives we also had a list of doulas we knew were professional and had good track records, so once you find your Midwife, check with them as well. A great doula usually comes highly recommended by midwives or other friends. For finding CPMs try this site: http://cfmidwifery.org/states/ or you can google Midwives Near Me and it will generate nursing midwives near you. I tend to always go back to my MOPS group of moms as well as my facebook local sites to get my area’s opinions. I have found my current midwife this way and gotten a ton of references for her. Social media isn’t shy about who they refer and feel free to shop around! You are supposed to interview your doctor/midwives/doulas before you make your birth decision to hire them. YOU are the customer here! Good Luck!

  3. Verna Cunningham says:

    What is in the last picture where you are wearing the mask?
    Thank you for sharing such an informative post.

    • Crystal Ferrell says:

      The picture does look a bit funny and stretched out. I was in the middle of processing a client’s placenta into easy to take capsules. I promise I will make another post about the weird phenomenon of “Eating your own placenta” and the health benefits. It needs it’s own full post, and, no, it’s not as gross as you think 😉

      • Verna Cunningham says:

        Wow! I had no idea the picture showcased the eating your own placenta idea. The picture looks fine to me – I just thought it was some sort of herbal tea for the labor pains. LOL Childbirth truly is miraculous and thank you for sharing about your job.