- Initial Interview – This usually lasts for 1 hour but sometimes lasts longer, free of charge
- Phone, email, facebook, online support – can be anywhere from 10 hours to 50+ hours, if charged at the minimum decent living wage of $17 an hour this can be worth anywhere from $170 to $1000!
- Prenatal Meetings – each meeting typically lasts one hour, but sometimes last longer, and doulas offer anywhere from 1 prenatal meeting to 6 prenatal meetings. Using the above mentioned minimum decent living wage this can vary in value from $17 to $170.
- Postnatal Meetings – same as above, these can vary in value from $17 to $170
- Research time – this varies from client to client. Some clients don’t want to know anything about risks or pros/cons while other clients need to know everything. A doula cand spend anywhere from 1 hour to 30 hours researching information for a client during a pregnancy and post birth, valued between $17 and $510.
- Prenatal and postnatal meeting preparation time – generally most doulas will spend time in the week prior to a meeting preparing notes and information to be discussed with a client at that meeting, along with any information that was requested at a prior meeting or during a phone call/email/facebook message. Times can vary from 1 hour to 5 hours depending on what a particular client needs, valued between $17 and $85.
- The Labour and Birth – yep that’s right, your labour and birth is included as well. A labour can last anywhere from 8 minutes (yes it’s true, this actually has happened!) to 70+ hours, and sometimes even longer if intervention isn’t done to try and speed it up before then (long labours are completely normal too by the way, they don’t always mean that something is wrong and they don’t need to be sped up) and this also includes the immediate post birth support of a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 4 hours. Using the above methods to work out the value it can range from anywhere between $19 and $1190, or more if labour is even longer.
- On Call Period – This is the most labour intensive part of our job. We are on call for you from approximately 37 weeks gestation to whenever your baby is born, whether that is at exactly 37 weeks or 44 weeks gestation, that means that we are focused completely on you, we have our phone with us 24/7, we have a baby sitter or daycare lines up ready for a moments notice, we don’t leave town during that time (unless it’s a true family emergency and we will inform you if that happens), we don’t take holidays or travel far from home. During this waiting period we are on call for you every hour of every day for up to 7 weeks, if you need us we will drop everything and be there, day or night. If we were working in any other industry for 7 weeks straight with no breaks, this period of time alone would be worth almost $20,000 dollars, so really you’re getting yourself a real bargain.
- Daycare/Babysitter fees (if we have young kids) – Not all doulas have children of their own, some doulas children have already left home or are able to stay home on their own and look after themselves, but for those of us with younger children we need to have someone looking after them while we are with a client for a prenatal/postnatal or at a birth. Prices vary from center to center and babysitter to babysitter, however from when my own children were in daycare 3 days a week early last year it was costing me a flat rate of $129 a day for each child even if they were only there for half a day! Now if you are in Australia like me and receive a parenting payment or family tax benefit you do get some of that back through the child care benefit and child care rebate, bringing the cost back down to between $25 and $40 a day depending on your benefit and rebate percentages, but that still adds up quickly if you are putting your children in care regularly to see clients and attend births. On average for a doula who is hired by a client at 30 weeks gestation the daycare fees during that time can be as little as $225 or as much as $1200, or even more than that if the doula doesn’t get the rebate or benefit.
- Time away from family – this is probably the most difficult thing for a doula, and any other working mum for that matter as well, not being able to spend as much time with our family. The value of this is of course priceless, no true value can be put on it.
- Office costs – this covers printing, diaries, paper and all other office supplies. Sometimes our laptop/computer/phone/tablet might break and we need to get it fixed or buy a new one, or maybe our printer has died and we need a new one, we might have run out of ink for the printer or we may need to buy a new office chair that supports our backs better. It can cost us as little as $20 while we’re with a client, or as much as $1000 depending on what we are asked to do and what equipment we need.
- Our health – Our health is really important when we are supporting clients regularly, we need to be in the best health possible in order to do best we possibly can at what we do. This may mean that we need to supplement with vitamins and minerals or herbs, we may need to see a chiropractor to put our back into alignment again after spending 24 hours straight on our feet or crouched down at a birth, we may need to see an osteopath or a physio, we may develop a non-contagious illness that needs to be treated by a specialist doctor, we may need antibiotics or other medicines, we may become pregnant ourselves and need to be more mindful of our limitations and health, or we may even injure ourselves unexpectedly and need treatment to get back on our feet again. These things can cost anywhere between $5.80 for prescription medicine on the PBS scheme to $10,000 for specialist treatment if we have injured ourselves badly.
- Advertising/marketing costs – this is a cost for every doula, and part of all of our fees are put towards this. This can cover fees for having a professional website, getting new uniforms with our logo’s and contact information on them, advertising on facebook, in magazines, newspapers, on parenting websites etc. Depending on how much the doula in question spends on advertising each year this value can range from as little as $5 from every birth fee to $100 from every birth fee.
- Training – while the majority of doulas have already paid for or finished their training that doesn’t mean that we stop there and leave it at that. We might be hired by a client who wants a certain type of support (eg reiki, hypnobirthing, pregnancy massage, aromatherapy, herbal tinctures etc or rebozo) and decide to do some extra training so that we can better help that client during her pregnancy and labour. The prices of these courses vary and can cost anywhere from $100 to $4000.
- Immunisation Boosters – Some clients insist on their chosen doula getting immunisation boosters. Not every doula is willing to do this (for personal and other reasons) but others will happily do it with no issues. Some boosters are free, while there are others that cost money to get. For myself personally I won’t get the flu immunisation as it only covers 4 strains of the flu and there are far more strains than that floating around the place and it mutates very quickly, and yet I will happily get the whooping cough booster because I know how serious that can be due to my husband contracting it when I was 16 weeks pregnant with our second child, that one in particular is just not something that I will avoid. These immunisation boosters that aren’t free can cost from $50 to $150 depending on where you get them done and which immunisation it is for.
- Books – we buy birth and pregnancy related books regularly, not only to increase our own knowledge but also to add them our lending libraries (if we have one). Some doulas spend upwards of $400 a year on brand new up to date books, while others only spend $50. The initial outlay for a small quality lending library is about $500 if a doula is buying brand new books, and then there are the accidents that can happen as well – a client may misplace a book she has borrowed, or her child may draw all over it or rip the pages out, or food or drink may be spilled on it, or in rare cases a client just may not return the book at all. When things like that happen we have to replace the book in the lending library, just like your local library does, and that usually means buying another copy brand new which can cost upwards of $20 per book. On average a doula may have to replace between 2 and 6 books a year and will buy between 2 and 6 other new books to add to her lending library.
- Insurance – Some doulas have Third Party Insurance, others don’t. Currently there is only one company in Australia that insures doulas and it is expensive when compared to normal house or even basic car or motorbike insurance and can cost upwards of $400 a year.
In conclusion, when you hire a doula what you are getting in support is worth a heck of a lot more than what you are paying him or her. What your doula is worth in monetary value is huge, starting at $21,092.80 and ranging up to $40,455 and may even go higher than that the more that a doula offers in his or her packages! That’s an average yearly wage for the average working person. Aren’t you glad we don’t charge that much?
So as you can see, $750, $1000 or even $2000 really isn’t all that much to pay with everything that you are getting, it’s a bargain, and real value for money to have someone who is there only for you from the moment you hire them until your last postnatal meeting and in some cases even after your last prenatal meeting Your obstetrician who you don’t even get to see very often gets paid more than that just to see you up until your baby is born, your wedding photographer may have cost the same amount or more depending on what photographer or what package you chose, and your wedding itself, if you are married, may have cost over $10,000 (I know my wedding cost us $3,500 and we did everything ourselves).
For those who are wondering if it is really worth spending $750-$2000 to hire a doula, the answer is “Yes it is!”. Apart from independent midwives there is no one else who can offer you support and answer questions every single day of the week until your baby is born and afterwards, there are no others who can be there for you continuously for over 24 hours during labour (hospital midwives have to clock off after 12 hours and independent midwives have a back up so they can get some sleep). While some doulas have back ups available for long births or if we can’t attend a birth for some reason out of our control for the most part we will stay with you your entire labour if that is what you want us to do.
And that concludes this blog post.
As always feel free to share and if you know of anything that I have accidentally left out or forgotten please do let me know.
Student Birth Doula
FOOTPRINTS & RAINBOWS