10 Reasons Doulas are Expensive

I recently read an article on 10 reasons why photographers are expensive. Since many of our clients are using photographers for their birth, and milestones photography, I thought it was worth reading, and sharing with our clients. Then it got me thinking, I hear all the time about how doulas are too expensive from moms calling, and I hear “I wish I could charge more” from doulas in the field. The truth is, most doulas do not just pick a number and call it their fee. There are calculations that go into what they charge, this includes, time, cost, travel, and expertise/training. Let me give you the 10 reasons I think Doulas are expensive, and why it is worth paying the extra.

10- The Doula Bag: You might also call this gear. The experienced doula has many tools in his or her birth bag, and for us, we will not compromise on quality. Doulas bring with them birth tools such as a birth ball, snacks for you  and your partner (and themselves) paperwork for you, and so much more. For a monitrice, like you get with The Doula House, this also includes oils, herbs, homeopathics, doppler, rebozo, etc.

9- Skills: Your doula not only possesses the awesome trait of being familiar with birth, she is also a mediator, a negotiator, and in many cases your birth photographer, belly caster, birth educator, and much more. You are not just paying for the birth, you are paying for everything else he/she brings to the table. Many doulas are hired for their personal experience as well, such as when clients hire us for a VBAC, since they know that is a personal connection.

8- The back up: Each doula is responsible for making sure that you have a doula present for your birth. This means she is covering the cost of having a back up, or two, available if your doulas is unable to make it to the birth. Your doula will have spent time training this other doula, or at least working to make sure that their back up has a similar birth philosophy and will be a good match for your birth, if your original doula is unable to make it.

7- On call: You may see your doula as a “Scheduled” event, but it is anything but scheduled. Most doulas are on call for 3 weeks before your EDD, and up to 2 weeks after. What this means…your doula is not going on vacation or taking a day off during that time. She is hooked to her phone, waiting for your call. Doulas will answer their phone anytime, anywhere. This is a major commitment. Can you imagine the cost to pay for your attorney or housekeeper to be on call for 5 weeks? An on- call employee is listed as “An employee who is on-call must be (1) accessible by telephone or beeper; (2) available to return to the worksite within a designated response time; and (3) in a physical condition that allows him/her to perform duty assignments.” If a doula is on call for 5 weeks, that is 840 hours of waiting and being available. If we cut that in half, to average out, we come to 420 hours. If you paid your doula for her on-call time with a conservative pay of $1/hr, that is $420.

6- Experience: Not all doulas are created equal. There is a significant difference between a doula who has been doulaing for 2 years and a doula who has been doulaing for 10 years. There is also a major difference between the doula who take 2-3 births a year, and one who is taking 1-2 a month. The more a doula is working, the more she is learning. They will be up to date on best practices, and how to best support you during your birth. A doula who is also a birth educator, a photographer, or a postpartum doula is going to be worth more, because she has more to offer through the time of working with you.

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5- Time: Yes, this is different from being on call. Your doula is spending at least one prenatal, the birth, and one postpartum with you. You are not being billed by the hour, and that is a good thing. Whether your birth is 4 hours or 40 hours your doula is there! And even if she is only there for 4 hours, it is four hours of continuous support, education, hip squeezes and pressure point relief. She is working to keep you comfortable, focused, and supported. Your doula is not only supporting you, he/she is supporting your partner as well. If you are using a postpartum doula, it is not just the hours she is physically present in your home, it is all the prep work, travel, and phone time she spends with you.

4- Skills: A doula with a higher price tag, has more education than the $300 doula right out of training. These doulas have invested in themselves, so that they can better invest in you. These doulas have become birth educators, lactation consultants, massage therapists, and postpartum doulas. Here at The Doula House, we have invest time and money into being a monitrice, this means classes, hours working and mentoring with a midwife, and much more. Remember, what you get with a Mercedes is not the same as a Ford.

3- Premium service: Along the lines of education, there is also the personal unique touch of a great doula. This doula has a way of helping you know what you need out of your prenatal, birth, and postpartum experience. These high end doulas have more education, more training, extra skill sets that take them even above and beyond the doula experienced by years. The premium doula brings something unique to the table, and you will know it when you  meet with him/her.

2- Living Wage: Your doula is giving up time with her family, another job, or for herself to be with you. She needs to be paid enough to make it worth her time, not just to cover her expenses. Too many doulas are out there charging $300-$500 per birth. This may sounds like a steal of a deal to a couple looking to hire a doula. However this doula is not being paid for her time, and in order for her to make it worth her time, she will be unable to provide the level of support and commitment as a doula charging $1000-2500. This doula is making a living wage with her experience, this also allows her to take less clients, thus giving more time, energy, and attention to you. Many of the clients who hire me, love that I am not too busy to be present at their birth. I have only used a back up 3 times in over 10 years. I figure if the couple has spent the time to interview and research other options, and they choose me, then I better be able to attend their birth. There are some doulas who take so many births each month that half of them are attended by a back up doula. For some couples this is ok, but for most, they prefer their chosen doula to attend their birth.

1- No returns! Unfortunately, you will not get a do-over or a “take two” when it comes to your birth. The hardest thing to hear as a doula is when a women tells me “my doula was not what I expected” or “I should have hired you, I know it would have made my birth so much better.” Whether you are considering a birth doula or a postpartm doula, you can not reclaim that time or experience. It is worth paying the extra for a better doula, remember, you get what you pay for.

**I am not saying that all highly priced doulas are amazing, or that just because a doula is charging $500 she is lacking in some way. I am simply saying that almost across the board, you will get what you pay for in the extra money invested. In 10 years I have not had one client tell me I was not worth it. I have never had a client tell me, I used a cheaper doula and she was just as good. In fact, I had a client who decided to use a cheaper doula, because my prices had increased between her two births. I ran into her a few months after her birth, and she expressed regret in not just hiring me again. My heart broke for that little momma, because that is something she can never change or get back.

Remember, like any well paid professional such as your midwife or OB, it is worth the time to do research, interview, and pay what you need to pay to have the birth support you need.

Most Flex Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts will cover the cost of a doula, and some insurance companies are paying for the cost of a doula. Ask your potential doula for information on these support programs that are available.