*If your husband or partner is in the military and is deployed (or will be at the time of your baby’s birth) or if he has been severely injured or lost his life (may God bless you…my heart goes out to you!), please see Operation Special Delivery for help finding a doula who will assist you for free.
Many women facing labor and birth really want an experienced birth assistant by their side, but when they think about paying for “one more thing,” they decide that hiring a doula may not be feasible for them. Doulas are often asked if we can donate our services to help moms and couples who feel over-stretched financially. While the big secret is (sssshhh!) that many of us do volunteer to serve at a significant number of births, we simply can’t volunteer or do reduced rates all the time.
I wrote this article to help explain what is behind a doula’s fees and to give you hope and direction for finding a reduced rate or volunteer doula to help you if you simply can’t afford to pay the standard doula fees.
We doulas love what we do and honestly, if we could, most of us would volunteer to help women all the time, but being a doula for a woman is a huge commitment and there is a lot involved that most people aren’t aware of.
Doulas go on call 24/7 for weeks in advance of the baby’s due date and have to be willing and ready to leave all of their other plans and activities to go help the mom in labor at the drop of a hat. That means we’ve left or missed family birthday parties, family Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, we’ve had to cancel a much-looked forward to night out with our husband or miss our own child’s sports game or performance.
We have to arrange for babysitters to come watch our own kids at 2 AM on a moment’s notice or take our children to a babysitter at 4 AM (or whenever). We also have to arrange for someone to take care of our kids the next day and get them to their various activities (school, sports, clubs, etc) because when we leave for a birth, we have no idea when we’ll be back home. Births can be fast or they can take many hours. I’ve been gone for 2 and 3 days to help a woman in labor before. Even in a very fast labor and birth, the doula is almost always gone for several hours because she is not only there during the birth, but she stays for hours after the birth to help with immediate postpartum and breastfeeding care.
It’s very common for a doula to get home from a birth at 7 AM after being up for 30 hours straight, and then have to cook, clean and take care of her own family right away, without getting a chance to sleep for several more hours. And she is still staying available to talk to her client who has just given birth, in case the new mom has questions or needs help.
So, that is why doulas charge a fee. They are providing a much-needed service that requires a high level of personal commitment of time and energy, and they have to attend training seminars, buy books, DVD’s and supplies, pay for gas and car maintenance (which really adds up!), pay for babysitters for their children and pay a backup doula, in case they have an emergency and can’t attend a birth as planned.
Doulas are often having to help support their family financially, and it’s hard to work another job and also be a doula. Per hour, doulas don’t make very much. They spend hours with the mom during her pregnancy, meeting with her, answering questions, talking through things, and then many more hours during labor, birth and postpartum.
Even so, many of us do volunteer quite often or charge a discounted fee, or sometimes we will barter services in exchange for serving as a doula. It’s always worth talking to a doula about her available options, but a doula is also worth saving for.
Doula fees across the nation can vary widely, according to the economy in that area. Most doulas in our area charge $500. Some charge $700 or more. Some charge less, but $500 is the average fee in southwest Missouri (at the time I wrote this article). Doulas-in-training (DIT’s) often charge a half-rate or will sometimes even volunteer if the birth she attends can be used as part of her certification process. Many doulas will work out payments plans, so be sure to ask about that.
Some communities have organizations that provide doulas at no cost for women who meet certain financial requirements. The Doula Foundation does that in my area. Your local doulas will usually be aware if you have an organization like that in your area. Many doulas, though, will provide services at discounted rates or even volunteer in certain circumstances, so it is always worth asking the doulas you contact if they are able to do that.
Operation Special Delivery is an organization that helps provide free doulas to women whose husbands or partners have been severely injured or lost their lives or who are or will be deployed or unable to attend the birth due to military service.The doulas who work with Operation Special Delivery volunteer their time and are not compensated by OSD.
So, check out the doulas in your area. Ask them what types of special financial arrangements they may be able to make for you. Often, just getting a payment plan in place can relieve a lot of stress and provide you with the reassurance that when your baby’s birthday arrives, you and your partner will have a dedicated, compassionate birth professional by your side.