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What Is a Doula? Why Are They Beneficial? What Are You Paying For? How Do I Afford One?

What is a doula?

A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. A doula works in birth centers, private and public hospitals and at home births in conjunction with midwives – but never as the sole carer at birth.

Doulas offer a variety of services including but not limited to…

Birth education and preparation

Birth planning (including creating a written birth plan/birth preferences document)

Discussing previous births

Massage and other comfort measures

Optimal fetal positioning

Suggest positions and changes to help ease pain and facilitate a smoother, more effective labor

Provide reassurance and encouragement

Talking through emotional blockages which may come up during pregnancy and in labor

Keep your ‘environment’ going – aromatherapy, music, candles etc

Assisting you with negotiation of your preferences

Photography and/or video of the birth

Why Are Doulas Beneficial?

Many studies from around the world have concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff, friends or family. Studies consistently demonstrate very impressive benefits for the mother, father and baby, including but not limited to…

50% decrease in cesarean rate

25% shorter labor

40% decrease in use of oxytocin

60% decrease in request of epidural

Increased rate of successful breastfeeding

Overall higher satisfaction in birth experience

Partners also have a higher rate of satisfaction and report that they felt more confident and were able to contribute more to the birth process

What Are You Paying For?

The average cost of a doula in the Bay Area is anywhere from $1,000-$2,000. This can seem like a lot considering all of the other expenses you will have when preparing for your baby. But lets first breakdown some of what that cost goes towards.

Being on call 24/7 and willing drop everything when you're needed. This means missing family events, holidays, and not being able to travel any farther than an hour away from where your client is delivering. Always having your car and bag ready to, often times taking two cars so that you can leave at the drop of a hat. Rescheduling/canceling our own appointments if a client goes into labor.

Cost of certifications, memberships, and continuing education so that we can be up-to-date on the best practices.

Labor support that could be 3 hours or 30 hours and paying a backup should one be needed. With that the physical toll of missed sleep, meals, and soreness from all the physical support we provide.

Travel, childcare, and taxes. Those of you who are self employed know how costly this can be.

Time that goes with emailing, text/phone support, researching and finding referrals for clients, and time spent at pre/postnatal visits. This time adds up quicker than you would think.

Your doula’s unique insight and perspective on birth practices, alternatives, and options. She has likely worked in a variety of settings with multiple care providers. She is a wealth of information and she will have the time to sit and explain everything in detail, something a nurse or doctor might not have the time to do. She will likely go the extra mile to research anything you have questions about.

How Do I Afford One?

There are many ways to budget in the cost of doula, some newer doulas will volunteer for the experience, some work on a sliding scale. Here are a few other ways you can afford a doula so that you can get the birth support you deserve.

Ask About Payment Plans

Personally I require a 50% deposit to hold your spot on my calendar but the rest of the total isn't due until 37 weeks. This means the total can be spread out over a long period of time. Most doulas will work with you, just ask!


Do you have any skills your doula might be interested in? Photography, cleaning services, art, bodywork, tutor, childcare, tattoo artist. You never know what she might be interested in, again it can’t hurt to ask. Also, spreading the word. Offering to put your doula’s business cards at other local businesses helps her to generate more business and makes it possible for her to be flexible with other families who really can’t afford her services.

Baby Showers/Mother Blessings

Ask yourself what do you really need for your new baby? I can promise you that the gifts you receive that will help support you during labor and after are the ones you are going to appreciate the most. Birth or postpartum doula, meal services, house cleaning, these are the things you will really need. Ask your friends and family to pitch in for your doula fund. Many doulas offer gift certificates.


Cut back on the little things that add up. We’re all guilty of it, myself included, pricey coffee, eating out. Clean out your closet or garage and put it on craigslist, ebay, facebook groups. The money saved/made can go towards your doula.

Call Your Insurance Company

20+ insurance companies now cover some or all of your doula services. Call, ask questions, you might have to do a little extra paperwork but it’s worth it.

I’m thankful to say that I’ve never met someone who was sorry they hired a doula but I have met people who regretted not hiring one. I believe that every woman should have a great birth team and that every woman deserves a doula. I want you to feel loved, supported, and confident in your ability to birth. Communicating openly with your doula is key, most of us want and are more than willing to work with you.

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