It’s been said that if a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it. For you analytical types, here’s a systematic review of continuous support for women during childbirth.
Whether a doula has attended 2 births or 200, she has a servant’s heart and is uniquely qualified for this work. Someone who is willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice (generally in the middle of the night) and provide constant support for you and your partner until your baby arrives should be compensated accordingly.
A fee of $800-$1,200 (the going rate in Atlanta) may seem high, but I encourage you to think creatively about ways to make it work for your budget. Many doulas are willing to barter for services and most accommodate payment plans. Sometimes certifying doulas temporarily charge a lower fee than more experienced doulas, though training programs generally recommend certifying doulas charge at least enough to cover their expenses, which can be significant. Check out doulamatch.net to look through the database.
If you’re wondering why a doula is really needed, you may be thinking your partner or husband will be able to handle it. While some partners are quite good at tuning into the needs of the birthing mom (and that is a wonderful thing to watch), keep in mind they might need a break, and if we’re being realistic, they might not have the presence of mind, in-depth knowledge of the process, or the level of encouragement that a trained doula offers. Doulas are generally intuitive, so they often know what you need before you do!
When pondering why a doula costs so much, it might also help to consider the life of a doula. It doesn’t take long working in this business to understand the appeal of scheduled delivery! But the reason we’re in this is to support women’s choices, and generally speaking, women who hire doulas choose to go into labor spontaneously, which could happen at any ol’ time and rarely happens on the day it’s “supposed” to (the due date). (This is not to say that women choosing a scheduled C-section would not benefit from the comfort a doula provides. I believe they absolutely would! I wish this were more widely talked about and advertised.)
Potential clients do not line up like ducks in a row, so we really don’t know where our next paycheck is coming from. Doulas charge up to $2,000 in some cities for their services. That is a flat fee regardless of how many hours she’s away from her family and other business opportunities to be at your side.
There are costs associated with being there for you, including child care for her kids, fuel to get to you, fuel to keep her going (food), and of course, time. Regardless of what else may be going on in her life, the doula will put you at the center of her universe for as long as you need her. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t really put a price on that!
Doulas are specially trained to create a comfortable, peaceful, and protected environment for the birthing mother and her primary partner, and she’ll help guide the partner on ways to be involved if and when that’s helpful. She will provide a sense of comfort that is difficult to even articulate to someone giving birth for the first time. (Check out Top 50 Reasons to Hire a Birth Coach)