One of the things I often hear is that doulas cost a lot of money.
And I get it.
When you see a one-time, often up-front price ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, it can be intimidating. Add to that the fluctuation of prices from doula to doula, and the process can become overwhelming.
So why are we so expensive? Truthfully, we're not. I say that as a person who would gasp (okay, maybe faint) whilst forking over a thousand dollars (or more) for a doula when my time comes.
So where does your doula fee go?
Experience and Training
Most parents who are looking to hire a doula start with where she was trained as well as how much experience she has. Doulas who have been through multiple trainings and have attended a great deal of births tend to charge more for their experience. But, that's not to say that a doula who has only attended a few births doesn't also charge "market price" for her services. While most of the money we earn for births goes towards logistics (more on that later), a chunk of it (at least for me) goes towards advanced training. This ultimately makes for better doulas.
The average cost of doula training is about $600, though I have seen it higher for week-long retreat-style trainings. Postpartum training can also range between $600-900. If you want to become a Certified Lactation Consultant, trainings can be as much as $900, and if you'd like to take it further to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, testing costs money as well. Becoming certified in Placenta Encapsulation, Child Birth Education, and Essential Oils and Herbs are trainings that most doulas want to add to their business. We earn these certifications and attend trainings based on our income.
Most doulas go on 24/7 call at least two weeks, but sometimes as early as a month before the time of a client's Estimated Due Date. This means they are essentially "on the clock" 24 hours a day. If I divided my current doula fee* of $850 by two weeks, I would average about $2.52 an hour without counting the amount of time doulas spend with their clients during their birth. Like most doulas, when a client calls me for their birth, I stay by their side until 2 hours after the baby is born and the parents are settled. This also means that we are not taking new clients. We are usually not going on initial consultations or meetings because we could be called to a birth at any moment. We are committed to our clients.
Gas, Food, Etc.
Doulas pay for their own gas or fare for public transportation to all consultations and prenatal visits. We also make postnatal visits (up to 2, or 3 in some cases) without charging a "postpartum doula fee." While we don't get lunch breaks, we do pay for our food, water, and supplies that we bring to each birth. This can range from books we loan to clients to birthing balls, rebozos, etc.
When a doula goes on call, she/he does so with the knowledge that at any time we could be called for a birth. This means we miss family time, vacations and trips, or nice dinners with our significant others. And when the time comes for baby to be born, we leave our full time jobs (if we work outside of doula-ing), family, and children for an undefined amount of time.
Is it Worth it?
I can't say that for anyone (typical doula answer). The evidence shows that having a doula-attended birth results in less intervention, fewer cases of unplanned c-section, better management of labor pains, shorter labors, and healthier breastfeeding relationships.
Like most doulas, I'm not in it for the money. I do what I do because I'm passionate about it. I love helping people become parents. There is still nothing more awe-inspiring than watching a baby be born. I get a rush from the sheer power and determination of women in labor and nothing beats the smell of amniotic fluid clinging to your clothes. The oxytocin that baby and new parent emit is intoxicating and contagious. I always tell parents that I interview with that they should pick a doula not by how much she costs, or her experience, but by how you feel when you are in her presence. And to my mind, that presence is priceless.
There's a stereotype that only one kind of person hires a doula. The image is usually of a woman who is white, in a higher socio-economic bracket. She is, perhaps, a professional with a hippy edge. She is educated and informed about her birth. And it's true. Women like the one I have described may opt for a doula to attend their birth or hire a postpartum doula. But other people hire doulas as well:
Trans people hire doulas.
Black and Latino (and Asian, and, and and) hire doulas.
Jewish women hire doulas.
Muslim women hire doulas.
Stay at home parents hire doulas.
And yes, folks who are "poor" hire doulas.
One of the reasons that I decided to become a doula and to train with Ancient Song Doula is because ASDS is an organization started by a woman of color and an organization focused on training women of color as doulas. ASDS spends time in the community it aims to serve, educating people about birth.
Doulas aren't just for the rich, they're not only for white folks, or for straight people. It's my philosophy that ANY PERSON giving birth not only needs, but deserves to have a doula by their side. And ANY PERSON who has given birth not only needs, but deserves the support of a postpartum doula in the weeks following birth.
Less than one hundred years ago, people birthed surrounded by their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, cousins and friends. We birthed in Red Tents, in Birthing Huts, in low-lit rooms of homes. We roared our babies earthed from our bodies without fear, because we'd seen birth. A doula's job is to help provide that tribe we've lost. And while we're only one person, rather than the mother, grandmothers, and aunties of the past, we stay by your side. Reminding you of your strength, telling you that you're beautiful, and holding space for you to birth your baby in the way that's best for YOU.
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.