Doulas Deserve a Living Wage, Too


I participate in plenty of online forums/groups, mostly through Facebook, that deal with pregnancy and birth. These groups feature a wide range of individuals, mostly women, looking for support and answers to their questions. They cover most demographics, areas all over the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world, all ages and family sizes. There is a wide variety of experience.

What I see almost every day is someone asking for information about doulas – Should they hire one? What should they ask the doula at the interview? What makes a good doula? How can I get one for cheap?

This post is mostly for you doulas, but I’m trying to aim it toward the pregnant mothers who might stumble upon this blog.

Doulas deserve a living wage, too.

What does that even mean? What is a living wage? Simply put, a living wage is “an amount of money you are paid for a job that is large enough to provide you with the basic things (such as food and shelter) needed to live an acceptable life.” (source) This is why we have a government-regulated minimum wage, so that people will be paid fairly for the job they do, so that they can live and support themselves and their families.

There is a common myth among new parents that the role of a doula should come at an inexpensive cost or free of charge. I can see how that comes about: Doulas are seen as quiet helpers who sometimes “don’t do much,” that they aren’t medically needed for a birth, that they stand in for the mother, grandmother or sister of the birthing mother.

Doulas still play an important role in the birthing room, as important as the midwife or the nurse, just in a different capacity. Just as you wouldn’t expect to have a midwife attend your birth for free, you shouldn’t expect a doula to do the same. I understand that birthing can cost a lot of money, especially if your insurance won’t cover certain aspects (like a doula.) However, understand that the cost of a doula is worth it. Worth every penny.

Becoming a doula isn’t free, and neither is maintaining the job of a doula. Let’s look at a basic breakdown of my own expenses:

Training/Certification: $700+
Materials: $75, ongoing
Childcare: $8-10 per hour
Travel: $20+ per birth

Even a doula who doesn’t participate in a training program and gain a certificate, or has childcare issues, still has expenses with every birth. Not to mention the time spent with each family. Let’s look at that:

Interview: 1-2 hours
Prenatals: 1-2 hours each (at least 2)
Birth: 1-24, or more, hours
Postnatal: 1-2 hours
Total: 4-30+ hours

Imagine you spent 30 hours working at your job… what would you expect to be paid?

Living wage is dependent on a lot of factors, that’s why you will find doulas of ranging prices. You have to take into account the area you live in (cities generally are more expensive), the economy of the area (rent, gas prices, so on), the doulas experience**, and the doulas availability. Of course, as a client searching for the doula, these aren’t your issues to be concerned about. As a doula, you need to look at these factors when determining your pricing.

**I don’t believe a doula fresh out of training should be offering free services to work on her certification. However, a bit of a discount is appropriate, but not necessary. I offered my first few births at a discounted price. This is an individual decision. You’ll find more experienced doulas will charge more, which is perfectly acceptable.**

Lastly, own your pricing. Don’t make apologies for running your business. If a potential client asks how much you charge, don’t be sorry for naming your price. Don’t feel like you need to offer discounts for everyone. If this is your job, then work it like a real job. Lawyers don’t feel bad for their prices, doctors don’t either, neither should you apologize for the service you provide.

What are your thoughts on living wage?

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