There are many observances and celebrations during the month of May, and on this first day, we honor International Doula Month! The evidence is clear that having a doula at your birth can improve your experience and outcomes. Even more exciting is seeing the growing abundance of traditional media coverage and medical suport for the use of doulas. In some lucky communities, doulas are on call in the hospital, available for any laboring mother who needs support. And increasingly, health insurance companies are reimbursing families for the out-of-pocket cost for hiring a doula. The doula "trend" is growing in use and acceptance, and as an advocate for continuous support in labor, I couldn't be more pleased and excited for birthing families. That said, affording a doula can be an issue for families. Depending on where you live, the cost of a doula's services for labor and birth can run between $250-$1500. And most of the time, the cost is not covered by health insurance. But fear not, because there are several things you can do to more easily afford a doula!
Ask about a payment plan. Many doulas are willing to arrange a payment plan if needed. Paying smaller amounts per month is often easier on your budget than larger lump sums.
Trade services. Do you or your partner have a trade that your doula might be interested in exchanging services for? Consider things like cutting hair, accounting services, handmade jewelry, lawn care, house repair/painting, website consulting, professional catering, etc. Depending on interest and value, you may be able to barter for all or a portion of your doula's fee.
Put it on your baby shower registry. Online registries like Babylist allow you to add items from any store as well as custom items. Adding a line item for "doula fee" and including different dollar amounts allows your guests to contribute. Some may not be comfortable asking guests to contribute cash, and that's OK. In general, however, this kind of practice (like asking guests to contribute to honeymoon costs on wedding registries) is becoming more common and accepted.
Clean house. Go through your house and put items together for a yard sale, or sell more valuable items on eBay. With a little bit of effort, you may be able to earn enough to cover half or all of the doula fee.
Hire a doula in training. Often, doulas who are in training or earlier in their career will charge a reduced fee. You can find these doulas through your local Birth Network or by asking an experienced childbirth educator in your area.
Reassess your budget. Take a look at your monthly spending. Are there areas you could cut back on? Like, eating out, trips to Starbucks, "fun" purchases that could wait? Save up the money you would have spent and put it toward your doula fee.
With some thought and perhaps a bit of creative effort, there are several ways to come up with a doula fee. Do you have other tips for paying for a doula? Share with us in the comments!