Why Are Doula Fees So High?

A Doula’s Fees

Many people ask about the breakdown of professional labor support fees. I offer this information so that you’ll have a better idea of what your money is paying for.



Most first labors last longer than 18 hours; some can last as long as 40 hours or more. The average time I spend with a woman for her labor and birth is about 14 hours.   I spend at least another 6 hours in prenatal meetings and the postpartum meeting.  Phone calls, individual research and responding to e-mails often add another hour or two per client.  Second and third births are very often shorter but require quick action on my part.   I charge a lower fee for second/third time births.



When I make a commitment to be available to attend you in labor, I limit the number of clients I put on my calendar to avoid birth conflicts and to ensure that I am reasonably rested when you go into labor. I try to schedule only one or two clients per month which gives you the highest chances I’ll be free to be with you. When I put your due date on my calendar, I commit to being available two weeks beforehand and two weeks after that date. This means that when I schedule a vacation, I have to add another four weeks during which I cannot accept clients.



The rule of thumb is that a self-employed professional’s income is only half of what they earn, after deductions for vacation and sick time, self-employment taxes, health insurance, and business expenses. Communication expenses are high for a doula – I have a cell phone so I’m always reachable, a web site, and a computer with a high-speed internet connection. I also have routine professional and office expenses and unusual transportation and supplies expenses.  There are supplies I bring with me to your birth and give you at appointments and interviews.  In addition, I also have to be able to compensate a back-up if the need arises.



It’s important to me to keep up with all of the most current information. In order to attend conferences and training opportunities, I often have to limit the number of clients I can accept around the time I will be unavailable, thereby reducing the number of clients I can work with each year.  In addition there is no “company benefit” that pays for these seminars and conferences.



Being on-call all the time requires a very high level of personal sacrifice, including a willingness to be awakened any hour to go attend a labor for the next 9-18 (or more) hours.  Personal family events can be missed or interrupted for births. When I go to a movie with a friend, we have to take two cars, in case I have to leave suddenly for a birth. I can attend a party, but I’ll have to forgo that glass of wine and I have to bring a change of clothes with me wherever I go. In order to care for my children I have to arrange for another responsible adult to take over at a moment’s notice. I cannot take spontaneous weekend trips away from home, and even local appointments have to be planned around due dates so that I’m never far away or indisposed when a client calls in labor.


What you aren’t paying for is how much I care, which is priceless.