Hiring a doula to be a part of your birth support team is an investment into your pregnancy, birth AND postpartum. The right doula can help make your birth a positive, educated, and empowering experience. Therefore, making the selection of a doula a very personal decision, one that can take some time, or it can take a matter of minutes once you’ve met the doula that you connect with.
It’s rare to hear someone regretted hiring a doula, but I do hear more so that they regretted NOT hiring one. You and your baby only get one birth; while costs are eventually forgotten you always remember how you felt and were supported throughout that birth experience.
But before we talk about how to save and pay for a doula, I think it is important to see what those fees are going towards.
Prenatal sessions or meetings during your pregnancy – Most all doulas will have these throughout your pregnancy to help you prepare for your birth. The number varies amongst doulas, but 2 meetings is average. Additionally, there is the postpartum follow-up meeting where your doula will help debrief your birth, answer questions, check and see how the transition is going, provide resource referrals based off your wants or perceived needs.
Unlimited access to your doula (via phone/text/email) throughout your pregnancy- This is for your questions, concerns, resource referrals, etc. We want you to feel supported and to have a safe place to come with your needs.
Doulas are on-call 24/7 in the weeks up to and after your estimated due date - This means that your doula will drop everything (day or night) at your call when needed. Your doula will not go too far away, miss birthdays/holidays, appointments, school events, date night and more to support you throughout your birth.
Childcare – If your doula has children, this means that they have a solid plan for childcare for any time you go into labor.
Certification & Continuing Education – doulas are unregulated (we don’t have one national agency that overlooks us all), so training can vary and not all require or have certification. However, for those who do carry certification (I do!), there are costs associated with maintaining and recertifying every few years. These trainings, certification, and continuing education to maintain certification and remain up-to-date on evidence-based practices can all add costs for the doula.
Labor & Birth Support - Your doula is agreeing to support you during your labor- no matter how long that takes. Whether your birth takes 2 hours, 24 hours or more, your doula is there.
Taxes & Fees – A lot of doulas are self-employed. This means that your doula pays taxes and fees associated with owning a business.
Although doula support is 100% worth the cost, I completely understand that doesn’t mean everybody has the ability to pay for it in one lump sum. So, how can you pay for your doula? Here are a few ideas to help you get the birth support you desire:
Baby Registry – A lot of doulas offer gift cards or certificates! Add this to your baby registry and let family & friends help support you with that goal.
Payment Plans – Many doulas accept payment plans and are more than happy to work with you to develop something that is workable for you. Just ask!
Sliding Scale Fee – Do not be shy to ask if your doula provides a sliding scale fee, offers occasional discounts, or has discounted birth services for military families.
FSA (flexible spending)/HSA (health spending) Accounts - A lot of these type of accounts can be used towards doula expenses. Verify with your account holders and see if they require any further documentation from your providers or doula. Sometimes they want a letter of medical necessity from a provider and that is a super easy thing to request!
Cut back on some of the “extras” – multiples trips to Starbucks every week and eating out a lot add up over time. Cutting back on some of those can add up quickly towards paying for a doula.
Do some spring cleaning – I’ve had clients declutter their house and hold a garage sale and use those funds towards a doula. Not only did they get the support they wanted, but also got a perfectly “nested” house!
Tax refund – If your tax refund is not already allocated towards something, it is a great option to go towards the birth experience you are hoping for.
Bartering – Some doulas are willing to consider bartering services for a portion of your doula services. This is where you pay a portion of the fee and the remainder can be done as a barter for profession skills/services, products that you provide. Examples of things people can barter are massage, graphic design, website design, haircuts, etc. It’s important to remember that the barter amount should be dollar-to-dollar equivalent to the remaining fee.
The Rosemary Foundation – The Rosemary Foundation for Maternal Care is a nonprofit with a simple goal: to connect doulas with the people who need them most and to cover that cost.
Pregnancy and birth are an incredibly exciting, intimate, and sometimes vulnerable time. Build and create the birth team that is going to best support you with your goals and desire. And while we 100% need to make doula-ing a sustainable way to support our families, there are doulas who can make adjustments in order to make services more accessible. Don’t just assume you can’t afford a doula, reach out and ask questions… we are happy to help guide you! I genuinely love what I do, and I want every family to be totally supported through their birth experiences.
**Carrie Stephens, CD/PCD(DONA) is a Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula, VBaC and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist that serves Grand Rapids and the surrounding West Michigan areas. She also serves as Director of the Maternal Wellness Program, a non-profit group that provides support for perinatal mood disorders and pregnancy/infant loss.