Cost benefit analysis: childbirth class + doula

costbenefit

Here’s my cost-benefit analysis of taking a childbirth preparation class and hiring a doula.

Childbirth class:
Investment: $500
Cost to instructor: Approximately $112 per student (class materials, gas, space rental)
Value to students: Obviously this is open to interpretation, but I would start by saying: you only have one chance to give birth to this baby. Whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, you can choose to engage in meaningful preparation that will make a difference in your birth experience. Birth “experiences” are not a frivolous luxury. A safe birth is the most important goal, but it must also be a good birth.

A woman will remember the day she gives birth for the rest of her life, and the way she gives birth (her birth team, the way she’s treated and her environment) will have a profound impact on her. Let’s do everything we can to make those memories positive and empowering! The best way to achieve that is through education (and in Hypnobabies, with the help of self-hypnosis techniques to release fear and learn how to give birth more comfortably with the power of your own mind, which creates relaxation as a by-product). In addition to the hypnosis techniques, you’ll get a thorough childbirth education to help guide your decision-making process and prepare you for the journey ahead. Each component alone is worth the fee, but you’ll get both in this class.

It’s been said that couples spend more time getting the nursery ready than they do preparing for childbirth. I challenge you to consider the notion that we as a society need to do better. When you finish class, you’ll have knowledge and practical skills to help you on your path to parenthood. Simply “winging it” can be a difficult experience indeed. For more on this topic, see Why should I take a childbirth class?

Doula services:
Investment: $700-$1,400
Cost to doula: approximately $200 per client, conservatively (child care, gas, food and parking). I’ve set my fee at $1,200 because I know this is what my family needs me to bring in so that I can create a sustainable living and continue doing this important work for years to come. Although I make around $20,000 annually at this rate (that includes my income from teaching classes), I feel that I’ve essentially maxed out what the consumer is willing to pay for this service for the time being. So until more doulas start charging what they need to make a sustainable living (many doulas charge only half of what I do), I’m content with this annual income. It allows me to pay some bills and have a little extra to do some fun stuff. (I wouldn’t be able to do any of it if my husband didn’t make a great salary plus put in a good bit of blood, sweat and tears into our investment properties.) I’m telling you all of this personal information to give you a better idea of why doulas, on average, need to be charging more. How can doulas who charge half of what I do not feel depleted when attending births month after month? Some births are quick and easy and others require an incredible amount of emotional and physical work. Since there’s no way to predict which clients will require more hours (in a couple of isolated cases, I’ve provided 40 hours of support for a family), we need to set our fee based on an annual projection. Whether your baby comes in 4 hours or 40, I’ll be right there with you.
Value to client: Where to begin? Doulas reduce the Cesarean rate. (This doesn’t mean that medically necessary C-sections are delayed in any way. Doulas are there to help ease the emotional burden on the family and ensure they have enough information.)

The same comments above also apply to hiring a doula. When you prepare, you’re doing your homework. When you hire a doula, she’ll be with you when you “take the exam,” but please don’t expect her to do all the teaching while you’re giving birth. Not possible. But she does encourage you that you’re getting the answers right. (That would be nice, right?)

I know this is a big investment. It’s one that a lot of couples struggle with, partly because they have a bit of sticker shock. I mean, what’s the big deal? Don’t we just go to the hospital and have a baby? It would be nice if that were true, but providers are generally very busy and there isn’t enough time during appointments to cover everything. (Not even close.) And there is definitely not enough time in the delivery room to ensure a natural childbirth if preparation was not done during pregnancy. Most providers genuinely want you to have a good experience and are grateful when couples do their part.

Not all providers will have the same perspective on what a “good” experience means, but there’s time to get on the same page. (Above-average communication is key.) And if it seems impossible to get on the same page, couples can always choose a different provider.

Considering that the average cost of childbirth in the United States is much lower with a natural birth, why wouldn’t every couple want to make the proper investment up front? I understand it’s an out-of-pocket expense versus what insurance covers, however childbirth classes and doulas can be reimbursed!

I hope this perspective has been helpful. I do this work because I truly enjoy serving couples at such a special time in their lives.

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