Thursday, December 2, 2010

What is your birth experience worth?

After every birth I've attended, my husband has pointed out that I don't charge nearly enough. He's right. Considering the amount of time that I've put into learning about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and newborn care, then taking into account the number of hours that I put in with each couple I work with, I don't make very much money.

What I do is a lot more than just staying with someone while they're in labor. I meet with each couple 3-4 times before the birth of their baby. The prenatal meetings are a combination of getting to know each other and an individualized childbirth education class. The idea is that these visits help the couple feel comfortable with me (important for when you're in labor) and also cover any questions that they have about the birth process.

In terms of the birth, I have to be close to Syracuse for weeks before (and sometimes weeks after) their due date. Until their baby is born, I am "on-call," phone in my pocket. I have to be prepared to head out at any time, with babysitters on standby for my kids. There has to be gas in my car and money in my wallet. I have to be completely sober and relatively well-rested. There's a lot that goes into being ready for someone to call.

When they call me, I make arrangements for the kids, grab my bag and head off to either their house or whatever hospital they're on their way to. Then I stay with them through labor, getting the mom drinks, rubbing her back or feet, suggesting different positions, reminding both parents of things they wanted to try and helping mom's partner support her. I stay whether labor is six hours or two days and I've been to some long labors.

About a week after the birth, I make another home visit. Then we talk about the birth experience and I try to answer any questions that the parents have about the birth, basic baby care and breastfeeding. If they need referrals to anyone for breastfeeding help, postpartum support, etc, I give them people to call or books to read. And the families that I work with know that at any point, whether it's six weeks postpartum or six months, that they can call me when they have questions.

In our area, the going rate for all of this seems to be anywhere from $250-600. I don't think that's nearly enough. When you break down what a doula makes, between the prenatal visits, the birth and the postpartum visit, it's rarely more than $15/hr. Take out paying the babysitter, gas, parking at the hospital and hospital cafeteria food and that's not very much money.

You can read review after review on about how awesome people's doulas were, how they got parents through when they thought they couldn't do it, guided them through rough patches like the sherpa leading you up a mountain. Yet these same professionals are making slightly more than my babysitter.

What do you think? If you had a doula, what did you pay her? What do you think doulas should be charging?


  1. Saw a lady whose birth I attended while I was out tonight and was reminded that this is also a job I would happily do for free. It's a conundrum; doulas should make more money, but if someone I'd never met called me right now and asked me to come be with them at their birth, I'd be out the door.

  2. I had doulas for both of my births, and both times I thought "wow they get paid nothing for all the work that they do!". I would have paid more for a doula, even (I guess I did in a way, as I tipped them both because it was so worth it to me to have a doula at my births).

  3. In many ways this is a work of love, so I would do it for free. If I could plan it and births were guaranteed to be under 12 hours on days when there were no conflicts. :)

    I live in an area(Orange County, CA) where doulas charge between $500-$1500. I charge around $900 which I feel is worth all the work I do.

    I have done a few free births (usually at least 1 a year) and quite a few discounted births. If I have a mom who I really connect with who needs a low cost doula, I will make it happen.

    It is hard to put a price on the work we do.