It's great that you are searching for the best care provider for you and your baby!
The cost difference between a midwife and a doctor does depend on where you are delivering. For midwives who care for women out of the hospital (birth centers or homes), the cost tends to be half of what a doctor costs...or even less than half.
As for what midwives can do for you baby: At our birth center (Gentle Beginnings Birth Center) we do a complete exam of each newborn with the mom and dad at our sides and we explain what we are checking and why. You have the option of giving your newborn baby a Vitamin K injection (routinely given to newborns born in a hospital). We don't do vaccinations at our birth center. We also do the Newborn Metabolic Screens as well.
As for pain-relieving options: We use a variety of comfort measures at our birth center since we don't have pain-relieving medications. You're right that a birth pool is a great measure. It's at the top of my list! We also use low-lighting, quiet voices and soft music to keep external stimulation to a minimum as a mom is laboring. Frequent and various position changes are important as well to find what works best for each mom to help her labor progress well. A supportive team of people who stay with you through it all, encouraging you, monitoring you and your baby, helping your husband to know how to support you, and who believe in your ability to birth your baby is crucial. Massage is also great, as well as counter pressure on your lower back and hips as baby moves down helps moms as well. We spend time during your pregnancy preparing a mom and dad for their labor and birth. Our childbirth education classes focus on preparing for an un-medicated birth.
Many midwives, though not all, will often spend 30 minutes to an hour with you at each prenatal appointment, finding out how you're doing, answering questions, discussing nutrition and other important topics to maintain a healthy pregnancy, and of course monitoring your growing belly and checking your baby's heartbeat.
I know that's a long response, but I hope it helps you on your journey for the right care provider and place of birth for you. If you're interested in a free tour and consultation with the midwives at our birth center, feel free to call us at ###-###-#### or ###-###-####.