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Why are doulas so expensive?

Updated: Mar 24

Chicago doulas typically charge anywhere from $1200-2500 per birth. That can give anyone sticker shock! Over a thousand dollars for a few hours of support at the hospital? Breaking it down into all the supports that you get for a one-time fee can help. Scroll to the bottom if you are a numbers person.

When you think of doula support, you likely are thinking just about the support given on the actual day of the birth. That is just the tip of the iceberg! Here are some of the things underneath:

just the tip of the iceberg of doula costs

Experience: You get what you pay for! Newer doulas offer a lower priced package in exchange for learning experience. Experienced doulas command higher fees due to their expertise and track record of successful births. For example, I have attended 50+ births, have developed a wide range of coping strategies and techniques to you during labor and childbirth, and specialize in queer inclusivity and VBACs.

Education and Training: Becoming a doula involves completing extensive training. Boring resume page is here. I'm a doula, a childbirth educator, and lactation consultant, but I also have a professional obligation to continue learning.

Continuous Availability: I live that on-call life for my clients 24/7, which means I am prepared to drop everything and attend to your needs at a moment's notice. This level of availability requires flexibility in my schedule, a strong back up doula, and for me to miss important life events of my own.

Prenatal and Postpartum Support: I provide comprehensive support that extends beyond the actual birth. This includes prenatal meetings to establish rapport, discuss birth preferences, and provide education, as well as postpartum visits to assist with breastfeeding, newborn care, and emotional support during the early postpartum period.

Emotional and Physical Support: The part most people are prepared to pay for! I provide comfort measures, such as massage, breathing techniques, and encouragement, to help birthing individuals cope with the challenges of labor. In turn, after births I need some intense self-care of my own: from therapy to physical adjustments, I invest in myself so that I can be available to you.

Liability Insurance and Business Expenses: Because of the world we live in, I need things like including liability insurance. I also have to keep Stevie the Subaru fed and happy after all the wear and tear of dashing to middle-of-the-night births. Plus there are all the regular, boring business things like supplies, marketing expenses, and ongoing professional development. If I charged clients for this part of my business, I would need to drastically increase my price.

Value of the Service: I can't tell you how many times I've heard some version of, "Wow, that would've sucked without you" or "We couldn't have done that without you!" There is a LOT of research on why doulas are rad.

Another way to think about it is in terms of hours in a basic package:

  • 1 hour consult

  • 3 hours intake paperwork and client gift bag prep

  • 10-12 hours for prenatals (including prep and travel)

  • 5-10 hours text, email, and phone support

  • 12-24 hours at birth

  • 5 hours postpartum (including prep and travel)

= 45 hours (average) per client, or about $35/hour (the low-end going rate for a postpartum doula)

Doulas take a set amount of money because we don't want you watching the clock during your birth and thinking about an hourly rate. Yes, sometimes births are faster. Though, usually not first births and not very often. Most of us keep careful track of our average number of hours so that we can adjust prices accordingly.

Some people think that doulas are only for crunchy, rich, white women, but in actuality everyone can benefit from a doula. If cost is prohibitive for you or your family, try reaching out to doulas in your area. I offer payment plans as well as discounts for low-income LGBTQ+ families.

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