"You Charge What?" Breaking Down the "Why" of Doula Fees

As a self-proclaimed cheapo, I understand the shock when realizing how much the doula you love charges. I get it. It's hard to fork over the money for a one-day experience, but if you'll let me, I'd love to explain why we charge what we charge. Once you understand what all goes into this work, it might make more sense. 

{Side note: I won't get into the argument of what a doula should charge, because, personally, I couldn't care less. What others do with their business is, well, their business.}

Commitment

When a doula opens up space on her calendar to accept clients, she is also accepting that she will likely miss important events, such as holidays, birthdays, and family vacations. She is also accepting that her phone will need to be on, charged, and with her at all moments of the day. Because birth doesn't have a time limit and we offer continuous support, a doula could be at one birth anywhere from 3 to 56 (or even more) hours, not to mention the time spent at prenatal appointments before and postpartum meetings after birth. If I have a full calendar (which for me is two clients) I have to prepare to be at four prenatals the month before and two postpartums the month after, with interviews sprinkled in for future clients. Pre- and postnatal meetings alone on a full month add up to be approximately 11.5 hours, plus prep and travel time. It's a huge commitment, but we do it because we love it and value supporting moms in labor.

Along with the doula's commitment, there is also the commitment her family has to make. Time without mom, dad doing evening activities alone after a full day in the office, family events missed, etc is a lot to ask. Did you know that birth workers have some of the highest rates of divorce? Yikes! Just like you, we have families and as you know, keeping family happy is quite the balancing act

Career

Being a doula is a career for many. When we're not being mothers, wives, or regular ole citizens, we are working our tails off preparing, educating, and supporting pregnant and laboring women. Most operating doulas spend extensive time and money on training and education to get where they are. Just like you would expect to pay a chiropractor, counselor, and teacher for their expertise and work, you should expect to pay a doula. Our work may look different from traditional jobs, and it may seem like it's all fun, but in reality, it's a whole lot of really, really exhausting work. 

Some doulas do offer low cost services, for one reason or another, while others charge as much as $2,000, and they all have different reasons. Doulas operate under a free market, which means private doulas across the country are welcome to charge what they determine is appropriate, however they make that determination. This is why it is so important that you, the consumer, do research before scheduling interviews. Know what doulas charge in your area and know what you can afford. Also be willing to make a way for the doula you love (i.e. cut back on extra clothes, food, entertainment for a month, figure out a payment plan, etc).

Burnout

Burnout is insanely common with doulas and who can blame them with the long hours on call, emotional rollercoaster of holding space for other women. Something really special about this job of ours is that we hold onto your emotions with you. Whatever you're feeling, we feel it to, and we hold onto it for you so you don't have to. We bear your burden gladly, but it's still heavy. To continue along this journey, we need to take care of ourselves when we're done taking care of you. Money can't buy happiness or energy BUT it can make the work (and subsequent time away from family) feel worth it. Bearing someone's physical and emotional burdens cost a lot. 

While explaining prices doesn't magically make money appear that doesn't already exist, it can put the fees into perspective. This perspective may help you realize that you can afford more than you thought, because now you see the true value in the work.