How much do doulas cost?
There are several elements that go into deciding what to charge as a doula. I’ll be discussing some of the things I took into consideration before deciding what to charge in 2019 marking one year since I did my doula training. I looked at my experience before and after becoming a doula, the commitment I was making, the cost of being a doula and the circumstances around me.
What is the cost of being a birth doula?
When I first became a doula I really wanted to help as many women as possible. But I quickly realised that it was not sustainable. I realised I could easily end up taking a client and have it cost me more than they have paid. Basically, working at a loss! When I took a closer look at the commitment, I was making a realised I needed to value my time more.
Well... there is the initial visit, antenatal sessions and postnatal sessions. Unlimited telephone/text/email support. Travel time depending on the location of the client. Time spent planning, preparing and tailoring the service. Then there is the actual birth. Births I’ve attended range from 3-42 hours (average of 14 hours).
The travel costs, backup doula fees, childcare, parking, advertising, subscriptions, mentoring fees, website fees, initial training, additional training and merchandise. You also can’t spend the money until after the birth in case it needs to be refunded or used to pay a backup due to unforeseen circumstances.
Being a doula could mean missing weddings, birthdays and time with your family. You, your family and your babysitter (if you need one) are on call for 28 days (or more). For 24 hours a day that’s over 670 hours! You are also most likely to get the call in the middle of the night. You have to be willing to cancel and reschedule your life at the drop of a hat leaving the house not knowing when you will see your family again.
Doulaing governs when you can go on holiday or more than 1 hour away from your client. It’s hard to plan anything or for example leave the city on an impromptu city break without careful thought.
It’s self-employment there is no sick pay or annual leave. As birth is so unpredictable there is a limit to the number of clients you can realistically take on in a month. It’s also very hard for another employer to take you on when you could be called away at any time.
How much do birth doulas cost in London?
The cost of a birth doula varies across the UK. According to Doula UK a new doula charges roughly £600. In practice, I have observed new doulas charging between £350 and £750 for a birth. Usually starting at the lower end and increasing their price as they gain more experience. Doulas with more experience usually charge £800-£2000 (Doula UK). In practice, I have observed experienced doulas quoting from £850-£3000 with most charging about £1000 for a birth.
How do doulas work out their fee?
Doulaing is not a legally protected profession there is no regulation on training, fees or experience. It’s up to parents to do their due diligence on the type of doula they want. Essentially a doula can charge whatever they want for their service. The fee a doula charges usually depends on 4 things; the demand, the competition, the viability and experience.
Assuming around 680,000 babies are born in England and Wales every year (ONS, 2017) and there are roughly 1000 practicing doulas (Doula UK, 2015) in theory there is plenty of work to go around. However, many women do not know about doulas and less than 1% hire one. There is a demand for doulas in London but I know that in other areas of the UK there is less.
How many doulas there are working in an area and how much they charge has an impact on fees. If there are loads of doulas and not a very big demand, this will drive the price down. If there is a shortage of doulas and many women who want to book one this might increase the price.
The fee a doula charges also depends on whether they see it as a business or a hobby. Especially at first, many doulas find it hard to make ends meet solely on being a doula. Many adopt other complementary services such as hypnobirthing, aromatherapy and massage which can provide more regular incomes. A doula with several responsibilities (such as being a mum) may need to charge more for additional expenses (such as childcare). There are also those who doula as a hobby or who don’t need the income they may charge less.
The amount of experience a doula has in practice and in related fields is often reflected in their fees. Newer doulas will charge significantly less especially if their first client is a friend or family member. Doulas with a bit more experience will have a greater knowledge of the commitment and a feel for how much they think their service is worth. They will also have more experience to draw from in their practice.
Finding my fee
‘Being a doula is a very giving role and usually one that’s about our love of all things birth, not money. We seem to have developed the bad habit of putting our clients’ needs before our own. Not surprisingly, many doulas suffer from burnout, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.’ (Maisie Hill, 2013)
Finding the right fee for me has been one of the most challenging parts of being a doula. I found Masie Hill’s article about fees and resonant pricing quite interesting. I don’t want to put women off who want support, but it also needs to be sustainable for me financially, physically and emotionally. There were two doulas that were influential in my decision making. The first told me it should be Win Win. The Doula should feel valued and the client should feel positive about the price they paid. The second told me not to worry about undercutting other doulas. I was advised to choose the price that was right for me and hold out for a woman who respects and apricates me and my service. After collating everything I have learnt so far and considering the commitment of being a birth doula I have now settled on the fees I will be charging for my packages in 2019 and hopefully look forward to another successful year!