I did a very similar post to this over a year ago, when I was still being mentored through Doula UK, so this is an update for where I am now….
Being a birthworker is a real calling. None of us in this or related professions are in it for the money. We love what we do, it’s a complete honour to walk with the families I work with and see their journeys into parenthood. I truly believe that there should be a doula for every woman and family that could benefit from one. If you genuinely cannot pay my fees, then talk to me. We will work something out.
But I also value what I give to my clients. And I want being a birth doula to be sustainable for me, not just an expensive hobby I am passionate about, so I can carry on supporting families and, hopefully(!), making a positive difference to their journeys. I find it incredibly sad when I read of doulas who have stopped doulaing because it was simply not financially viable for them and they, and their families, had bills that needed paying. The doula community loses out when that happens, as do the local families who need a doula.
I want you to feel confident that the fee I charge is fair and appropriate, and you receive a high level of expertise and support.
Here are a few things that make up a doula’s fee:
- Experience. In doulaing terms, I’m still very much on a steep learning curve, but I’m far from being a complete newbie anymore. I also bring other experiences to my doulaing, from breastfeeding support, mothering and past careers. Do ask me about my experience as a doula and I will be totally honest with where I am at in my doula journey.
- Ongoing Training: I love learning, love information and love finding out more about how to better support my clients. And maintaining my Continuing Personal/Professional Development is a requirement of Doula UK membership. I regularly attend continuing education trainings to expand my skills and keep my knowledge up to date. This can be expensive!
- Being On call: I limit the number of families I serve at any one time, to ensure I have the time and energy necessary to serve them well. When you book me, I mark out 5 weeks in my calendar as “on call”. When I am on call, I do not usually travel more than an hour from my home. Appointments, family & personal events and weekend trips are carefully planned, and I know they may be cancelled with little or no notice. I don’t have a glass of wine with dinner. I don’t wear perfume – just in case my client calls and hates my perfume in labour! As a mum myself, I have to make sure that I have childcare at any point, day or night. Some of this I have to pay for. Being on call is the high price of doula work. My family supports all the work I do, but my time is valuable to me and them.
- Self care: Being a doula is wonderful, but it can also be physically and emotionally draining. If I don’t look after myself, I can’t look after you. After I have been a birth, I expect to need someone to fix my shoulders and back. I will be the support you need in labour and will deal with holding that position or applying that counter-pressure or dancing with you leaning on me for hours, afterwards. Osteopathy is a necessary business expense for me!
- Travel Expenses: Filling up the car, parking the car, it all adds up. I used to add all travel expenses to my fee, but this made it more complicated for everyone. By having an inclusive fee, you will know upfront what you will owe me and can plan better yourselves.
- Food and Drinks while at meetings and births. Repacking my doula bag for each on-call period requires restocking at the supermarket and putting aside more cash for in-hospital expenses. Birth partners do not get fed in hospitals and birth centres and if we’re at your home, the last thing I want you to be concerned about in labour is whether you have food I can eat!
- Labour Tools: massage oils, TENS unit electrode pads, Rebozo, essential oils, rice packs, washcloths. Some of these will get used up or wrecked at a birth and that’s just the way it is.
- My Lending Library: I have a birth pool, TENS machine, Rebozo, books and CDs that I make available to clients.
- Business Expenses: Tax, insurance, running a car, paper, ink, folders, cards, marketing, website, mobile phone, internet. When you’re self-employed, your fee has to cover everything!
- My Time: I will probably average 26-30 hours caring for one family from the antenatal through to the postnatal period. This is from: at least 4, but quite possibly more, antenatal/postnatal visits, plus travel time; a typical time spent at a birth might be 12 hours (but it might be a lot more!); time spent looking things up or sending you info; plus email, text and telephone support from the point at which you hire me to after the postnatal visit(s). Using a reasonable hourly rate of £15/hour (and just think, what do you pay your hairdresser/osteopath/massage therapist an hour?), more than half of my doula fee is used up before I spend anything on supplies or training…and that’s without including being on-call, which would be paid well in many other professions!
To put it perspective, an independent midwife will charge around £4,000. Now I know that doulas are not midwives, we cannot (and don’t want to) take the role of a midwife and an independent midwife has years of training and experience at her back, as well as far more expensive equipment. BUT, the hours and commitment we offer is comparable. And I charge £750.
If you genuinely cannot pay my fees, then talk to me. We will work something out. And this FAQ might be of help.