I personally have such a package listed here on my website, and mentioned this and what was involved in it. After much discussion and a lot of negativity placed on such a package by the "more" experienced doulas involved in the discussion I was eventually told that I should give up charging fees for my services and just join a not-for-profit group that offers free doula support to avoid lowering the value of Doulas in my area.
Fair enough, I thought, if I had finished my certification and had 20+ births behind me then yes I might as well be working for a not-for-profit organisation for free, that is if such an organisation even existed in my country in the first place! (As far as I am aware no such thing currently exists in Australia, though feel free to share details with me if I am wrong!)
But sadly for me that isn't the case, At the time of writing this I have 2 in person births behind me (as of July 2017 that number had increased to 6 births) at the moment, and have also supported several women online during their labours. I am not an experienced doula with "200+" births under my belt having to turn away or refer clients on to avoid being burned out by my work or to avoid having 2 clients go into labour at the same time, I am a relatively new doula and I am completing the last few parts of my studies in order to become certified. When I first started studying over 2 years ago it was the norm for a new doula to offer her services for free in exchange for her first 2-3 certifying births and the experience that comes with it. These days if you charge for free you are "frowned upon" and in some cases even ostracised from the Doula Support groups on Facebook.
And that is where the Birth Only package could come in very handy for new doulas, and a good option for potential clients who cannot afford to pay for a full package even when it is offered on a payment plan (which I do offer as well by the way, though it isn't listed here on the website or on the Business Page).
For some families it is impossible to be able to afford the full package of an experienced doula ($1000+ for a full package), or even a newer doula ($500+), even when the doula offers a weekly/fortnightly/monthly payment plan, and a Birth Only package could fit their needs quite nicely.
So what is involved in a Birth Only Package?
This varies from Doula to Doula among those who do offer this package.
All doulas who offer this particular package include an initial interview. This is to allow you to ask the doula questions, and for her to ask you questions as well. It gives you both a chance to get to know each other and see if you mesh/get along well. If you don't mesh or get along well in the first interview then that doula is not for you!
Some doulas include a prenatal appointment in the Birth Only package, while others only include the initial interview and use the interview as a chance for the client to get to know the doula and vice versa as mentioned above (this is what my Birth Only Package includes, with no prenatal appointment although they can be purchased separately if needed at $25 per prenatal).
Some Doulas also include taking photo's of you during labour and of baby being born, or provide a camera for partner/midwife etc to use to take photo's.
The majority of Doulas offering Birth Only support also offer the usual unlimited phone, email and/or facebook support as well (although this may have to fit around other births as well so it could be up to 48 hours until you get a reply, unless it is a medical emergency and then we do everything that we can within reason to reply ASAP).
Some even provide regular (weekly/fortnightly) email updates with information on pregnancy (related to what gestation you are at) and birth in general for you to read through in your own time, these may also include visual aids and links to websites that can help with optimal positioning of baby during pregnancy/birth.
And of course they all attend your birth as your support person. Contrary to common belief you do not always have to see someone in person regularly in order to bond with them or get to know them. Around 50-80% of meshing/bonding is done at the first meeting where you get to know each other and find out if the doula is a good match for you, the rest can be done either with prenatal appointments or by phone, email, facebook and/or text message. It doesn't matter which method you use as long as it works for you and suits your particular needs.
What are the Pro's and Cons of Using this kind of package?
I will start with the Cons, as there are a few more of those than there are of the Pro's.
- You don't get as much face-to-face time. Some people like more face-to-face time, others don't, and that is ok. If you prefer more face-to-face time then this type of package is probably not for you.
- The doula doesn't get to meet your care providers. This isn't really necessary in most cases anyway, but some doulas like to meet the other people who will be supporting you and baby during this time so that they can get to know them a little bit. Of course in the public system here in Australia there is a chance that you won't get the person that you see at your prenatal appointments when you are in labour anyway so this issue can sometimes be a moot point.
- It is low cost. This is both a pro and a con, but for the purposes of this current point I am listing the cons of it which include - that you are forgoing some of the other benefits of having a doula like prenatal appointments and physical support during pregnancy, seeing the doula face-to-face more often and learning comfort measures in person.
- This package is also not recommended for first time mums, because it doesn't include a lot of the support that is offered in the full package there is not enough time to fully prepare a first time mother for labour and birth, so this package is not for you if you are a first time mum.
- This package is also not recommended for those who need lots of support. If you have anxiety or are having a high risk pregnancy that requires more in person support then please choose another package.
The Pro's are the following:
- It is low cost and can save you money. Enough said there. Most doula packages cover all the extras included like the prenatal appointments, daycare/babysitting fees if the doula has a child/children and the travel costs involved in getting to and from prenatals, birth and postnatals and other costs involved in being a Doula. By removing the prenatals and postnatals from this package it reduces the costs for the doula as well as the fee for you.
- You don't have to juggle your life around prenatals and postnatals, this can reduce your stress if you lead a very busy life or have older children that keep you so busy that you barely have time to put your feet up during the day let alone fit in one more appointment (I know that feeling all too well some days!). And to be completely honest this can be good for the doula as well, less prenatals/postnatals to fit into the diary can leave a bit more time for us to spend with our own families between seeing clients.
- You can ask the doula any question, at any time, regardless of how weird it may be. Sometimes we may not be able to reply for up to 48 hours (or more if we are at a particularly long labour) but we always get back to you as soon as we can, usually within 24 hours. If you have a medical emergency then please go straight to your closest hospital.
- This package can be beneficial for those who are well educated about birth or who are experienced with birth from having had children before. It offers you the extra support during labour that you may need, and allows you to do your own thing the rest of the time.
So as you can see the cons are slightly more than the pro's, but for women with more than one child, a woman who leads a very busy life, a woman who cannot afford the full package of the doula that she knows is the right one for her even with a payment plan or a woman who is very well educated in the ways of birth the pro's can outweigh the cons.
This option has been labeled as "non-viable" for doulas to offer at a reduced rate, something about reducing the value of a doulas work was mentioned and something else about reducing business for other doulas in the area, I won't go into specific details but I can say that this option would benefit everyone, current clients, future clients and doulas as well if it was available in every town, state and country. Not everyone needs all the extra's that a doula can offer, just as not everyone can go without them. It is up to the individual client to decide what she needs and what she doesn't need and that is why I have this option available for any client who may need it.
It is always a good idea to research your options, and this particular package may not be the right one for you, but if it is the right one for you then Congratulations! You've found yourself a doula that you can afford and you are also helping him/her to keep food on the table as well :)
Student Birth Doula
FOOTPRINTS & RAINBOWS