Affording a Doula

Having personal, in-person doula support through your labor is an investment, and people may be surprised at cost of hiring a doula. The prices doulas charge varies widely, often anywhere from $350 to $1,200 or more. With such a wide range of prices, many families may feel that they cannot afford a doula. While the total cost might seem daunting, there is a variety of creative options you may be able to draw from to cover the fee. 

We rarely hear anyone say they regret hiring a doula, but so often we hear from many who regret not hiring one. Your baby will only have one birth; while costs are eventually forgotten you will always remember if you felt supported through that experience.

Before we talk about how to pay for a doula, I think it is also important to think about what that fee really covers. Every doula should be able to clearly lay out how many meetings and what labor support is included in their cost. Beyond that, there are still multiple other commitments a doula makes to support you. 

  1. Accepting a client means that your doula is willing to be on-call 24/7 in the weeks around your due date. This means that your doula will drop everything, day or night, at your call. This means that the doula will not go too far away and will keep their cell phone handy and audible at all times. If the doula has children, this also means that they will have a solid plan for childcare for any time you go into labor. This can mean that the doula may have to cancel their own appointments last minute or miss holidays and birthdays. 
  2. Doulas are unregulated, so their training may vary. At Little Orchids, our standard is that every one of our doulas is certified or trained and working towards certification as a doula with their choice of professional doula organizations. These trainings, certification, and continuing education to maintain certification and remain up-to-date can all add costs for the doula. 
  3. Your doula is agreeing to support you during your labor- no matter how long that takes. Whether your birth takes 2 hours or 30 hours, your doula is there. At Little Orchids, this is one reason we work in doula teams. If you do have a longer labor, your doula can bring in their doula partner when needed to make sure you have a fresh doula to continue supporting you.
  4. In many (if not most) cases, your doula is self employed. This means that your doula pays taxes and fees associated with owning a business. 
  5. The cost of fuel and car maintenance can be expensive, and doulas often have to travel frequently. Although driving to and from consultations, prenatal visits, births, and postpartum visits are  the travel time associated with initial consultations, prenatal and postpartum home visits are all included in the cost of doing business, these expenses do add up.
  6. Being a doula can be a physically demanding profession. Your doula may miss nights of sleep and skip meals during births. Your doula may get physically exhausted from massaging, providing counter pressure, or otherwise supporting you for hours on end in whatever position is most comfortable for you. 
  7. Your doula gains experience with each birth they attend. Working with different doctors and nurses and in different hospitals and birth locations gives your doula a unique perspective that allows her to understand current policies and options. 

So, how do you pay for these services?

For some families, payment is not an issue. That’s great! For others, it can be more difficult. If you do need a bit of a boost, here are a few ideas:

  1. Payment Plans
    Many doulas accept payment plans, so ask if this is an option. Generally, the fee for your doula is not due all at once, and payments can be made over time. 
  2. Baby Registry
    Did you know that many doulas offer gift cards or gift certificates? Add these to your shower registry to see if family and friends would like to help chip away the cost. 
  3. Health Savings Accounts and Insurance
    While many health insurance companies do not directly cover doulas, it never hurts to ask. Your doula may be able to provide a superbill for support and any classes taken with which you can request at least partial reimbursement. 
    Some doulas are able to accept payment through HSA cards. If you already have funds set aside in one of these accounts, that may be a good option for some. 

In the end, doulas are human. If you have questions or concerns about the cost of services, please ask! Many doulas are able to work with customized payment plans, and some doulas may offer occasional discounts. While we do need to make doula-ing a sustainable way to support our families, most doulas are not in it purely for the money. We truly love what we do, and we want every family to be totally supported through their birth experiences.