Some people are surprised by the potential cost of hiring a doula. While some doulas-in-training may offer low-cost or even free services while they gain experience, others may charge anywhere from $300 to over $1200, depending on factors such as experience, location, and demand. Some women feel that they can’t afford the support they want, but there are creative ways to make it work if you really want to!
Before we think about how to pay for these services, let’s talk just briefly about what we are paying for exactly. Beyond the time and services included in the actual prenatal support, labor support, and postpartum support packages offered by most doulas, which hopefully offer you priceless peace of mind knowing you and your partner have a knowledgable advocate on your side, take into account the following financial and time commitments your doula makes to be able to serve you:
- being on-call 24/7 means being willing and able to drop everything when you’re needed, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. That means not going too far out of town, not being out of earshot of your phone, rescheduling your own appointments or classes at a moment’s notice, not having that extra glass of wine, keeping your gas tank filled, your doula bag stocked and ready etc.
- most of all, that means your doula is likely to miss family events, birthdays and holidays to be with you
- the foundation education, certification, professional association membership and continuing education costs incurred by your doula to stay up-to-date on the best evidence-based practices
- your doula’s willingness to stay with and support you whether your labor takes 5 hours or 25 hours – and to arrange for a back-up in the event of illness etc.
- that she may need to make childcare arrangements at short notice
- your doula is (in most cases) self-employed and therefore has to pay all the taxes and expenses associated with that status – and those are significant
- the travel time associated with initial consultations, prenatal and postpartum home visits and labor travel (to the home, then to hospital, back to her home etc) adds up
- the physical toll of missed sleep, missed meals, soreness from massaging/supporting the laboring mom in whatever position works for her for hours on end, engorgement from missing her own child’s breastfeeding schedule…
- the time associated with email, text and phone support per client from prenatal questions through to postpartum follow-up adds up to several hours for most clients
- the doula’s experience gained by attending births in a variety of environments (homes, birth centers, hospitals) with a different combination of care providers almost every time gives her a unique perspective and insight into birth practices, alternatives and options.
I’ve rarely heard anyone regret having hired a doula, but many who regretted not hiring one. You only have one chance to birth this baby – you’ll remember whether you were supported through it, or not, much more so than you’ll remember how much money you paid, or saved, for it.
So, how to pay for these doula services?
For some parents, payment is not an issue. That’s great! For others, it is. So to help you get the supported birth experience you want, consider these ideas in addition to whatever payment you can afford:
Ask About Payment Plans
You can often arrange to make regular smaller payments rather than a lump sum payment. Many doulas and midwives offer flexible payment plans, with most requiring payment in full by around 36 or 37 weeks. However, if that’s not possible, she may agree to a plan that lets you continue to make payments even after the baby is born. Ask!
Barter / Trade
Do you have a skill or talent your doula might be interested in? Barter! I’ve traded my services for anything from photography sessions to reading lessons for my child.
Other bartering ideas might include:
- website design
- cleaning services
- administrative work
- massage or other bodywork (chiropractic / acupuncture)
- cooking / meals / fresh eggs
- art or graphic design skills
- sewing / knitting
- childcare / babysitting
- handyman / painting / powerwashing / repair work
You never know what she might be looking for! Think outside the box and ask her. You’ll likely find that she’s happy to come to a mutually beneficial and fair agreement.
Spread the Word
Actively help generate more business for your doula or midwife by sharing her name around town. Offer to put her business cards at local businesses when you go to the library, health food store, ultrasound office, baby stores and so on. This is marketing work that could be part of your bartering proposal. Plus, helping her business thrive will help her be able to be more flexible with people who do have a harder time paying in full without causing stress with her family.
Baby showers / Blessingways
Think about what you really need for your new baby. I mean what you really need. It’s probably not another set of receiving blankets. Birth doula support, postpartum doula support, cleaning services, anything that helps to support you during labor and after you welcome your baby – that is what you are really going to appreciate more than most of the material items that manufacturers would like you to think you need. Ask friends and family to contribute to your doula fund.
Check with Insurance
I offer receipts for both childbirth classes and doula services for people who would like to submit to their insurance providers for partial reimbursement. Insurance is complicated and I cannot claim to fully understand my own policy, much less guarantee what your insurance provider may offer you. Some policies will not cover education costs or doula services. But I do encourage you to call, ask questions, ask your medical provider’s assistance, call again, and submit that receipt. Sometimes it works! I’m happy to complete paperwork when I receive additional information request forms from insurance companies.
Raise Money by Selling Items
Almost all of us have some items lying around (or hidden deep in closets or cabinets) that we no longer like, use or want. Jump on craigslist, ebay, local sales groups on Facebook or other such places and generate some cash! Have a garage sale!
Keep Money by Not Buying Items
Cut back on a few expenses to put toward your doula fund. Can you go without cable TV or pricey coffees for a few months? Consider using your tax refund for birth expenses.
I’ve seen some people ask for donations online on crowdfunding sites such as www.gofundme.com or www.giveforward.com or even simply ask their friends and family on Facebook to help fund them. Military families may benefit from volunteer doula services through Operation Special Delivery. There are also organizations such as Samaritan Ministries which may help you pay for medical expenses, including midwifery and doula expenses. When it comes to creative crowd-funding, Google is your friend!
A final thought
You know, most doulas aren’t in this for the money. When you break it all down, I’ve earned less than $10 per hour with some clients with long labors. When you take into account the fact that when I’m doula-ing, my husband takes the kids and therefore can’t get all his work done, it would sometimes make more financial sense not to do this work. But I love what I do and my husband supports that. And doulas want to help women feel supported throughout their birth experience. Communicate openly with your doula and you’ll most likely – I hope! – find a way to make it work together.
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