Income as a doula? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 01-30-2006, 06:34 PM - Thread Starter
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I am currently a paid graduate student which means that I work part-time, very flexible hours. We have no external childcare -- DH also has flexible hours and cares for DS when I am working on my research. I will be graduating in the next year and need to replace some of my income but can not continue in my current field without taking a full time position -- something I am not willing to do. So I'm looking for a new career and I find that I am very drawn to work involving childbirth and children even though I have no experience other than my own childbirth and parenting experiences. I'll have to do a lot of research and thinking to decide if becoming a doula would be a good path for me and my family. But before I do that I need to know if it's even feasible economically.

So my question: is it feasible to make $10-20K per year as a doula? How many hours per week (on average) would you work to earn that sort of income? I know it varies by region, but any thoughts you could give would be appreciated. Thank you.

ETA: sorry if this is an indelicate question -- I feel odd barging in here and asking how much you make!
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#2 of 9 Old 01-30-2006, 09:02 PM
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Now I would love to know the answer to that question!!!

I think you will find, as many of us on here find, that work is fairly unpredictable and a guaranteed income is not always possible. I am finding as a relatively new doula, that work comes in fits and starts and I, as many other doulas, are in it more for the passion than the pay

TB frank, I find that I am often only earning around $3 per hour once I have taken my childcare out!!

I have also found it is a slow process to get known and a reputation.

If you are a birth doula, then you may only take on one birth a month, or even only every two months if you don't have back up or something. This is because you are on call for up to 4 weeks either side, so unless you are really able to juggle, have a back up or like to sail by the seat of your pants you are probably realistically looking at around $5 - 600 per month?? dependent on what doulas get in your area, so what is that over a year ??? $ 6000 maybe a little more??

So I think the answer to the question is probably no or at least, certainly not reliant or in the early days, it took a pal of mine 3 years to really get established! I hope this isn't sounding too negative! If you are truly passionate about the work and not bothered so much about the money, then you must follow your heart!!
Or, you could incorporate it with another job, which is what lots of doulas do.
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#3 of 9 Old 01-30-2006, 11:24 PM
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The easy answer is yes, take three clients a month, charge $300.00 per birth, and you'll have $10,800 gross income. If you're in an area where doulas are paid more, that could double to $21,600.

The hard answer is...well, maybe. From your gross income, you'll have to deduct gas, childcare (or hours lost for your spouse to take care of children), advertising, education materials, copies, continuing education, backup doula fees, etc.

And there is the issue that it takes a lot of work to become certified and even more to get to where you are paid "top price" for your area. The good news is that I've found clients are more willing to pay for doulas than for midwives (WHY, I don't know!), so you'll have fewer people wanting your services for free!

Also, three births a month is quite a few. As a doula, I did three prenatal meetings and two postpartum visits for my clients, plus the l&d work. That's a lot of work for $300.00 (which is higher than the going rate around here) and it averages out to a very menial amount when you look at the hours spent. And with 3 births per month, you'd have to have a backup doula, which means you'd have to reciprocate being on call for her and if she took a birth for you, you would need to pay her. Most on-call relationships in my area are paid only for services provided, but I know in some places, the standard is that you pay a nominal fee for the hassle of being on call (and it IS a hassle: taking two cars everywhere, having childcare lined up, making sure you have your phone with you at all times, etc.).

Unfortunately, most childbirth professionals I've met consider their work an expensive hobby. Their advice has been to get into the work for the love of women and birth, and see any profits as a bonus. While I cannot afford an expensive hobby, my goal is for midwifery to pay for itself in the first few years. I hope after that I can have a small profit so that I can live (!), but I certainly didn't get into this work with a financial need to fill. If I had, it wouldn't be filled.

Charlotte, midwife to some awesome women, wife to Jason, and no longer a mama to all boys S reading.gif('01), A nut.gif ('03) S lol.gif ('08) and L love.gif ('10).
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#4 of 9 Old 01-30-2006, 11:35 PM
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For me, that would be 1.5 births a month at $550.00, which is what the average doula is here in Minnesota. If I took 2 births a month, that would equal out to 13,500.00 and 3 births would be about 20,000. It would be a lot of prenatal and postpartum time and who know how long the births would be. A very full parttime job.

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#5 of 9 Old 01-31-2006, 02:53 AM
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if you're going into it as a "job" it's really not worth it lol
3-4 prenatal visits and 2-3 post partum visits with an average of 2hrs each plus 10-12 hours (often much longer) for the actual birth and you've put in 18-24hrs frequently many more. Plus any research you help mom with, "false" labor calls, calls/emails for questions and concerns... I would estimate I give each mom an average of 30hrs of my time over the course of thier pregnancy. Average doula makes 350/birth that comes to $11/hr take out of that, gas, food, copying, CEUs, advertising, cell phone and taxes etc and you'd make more money working at McDonalds plus not worry about being on call.
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#6 of 9 Old 01-31-2006, 02:28 PM
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In my area, doula fees range from $150-350 dollars for 2 pre and one post baby visit (usually an hour and a half or two hours per visit), along with attending the actual labor. And some doulas here work for barter. So I think it really depends on what the average rates are for your region/city and on how many women are using doulas...perhaps you could call around (to local doulas, midwives, ob/gyn offices, hospitals, etc) to see what the average fee might be or to ask how often women using that hospital or doctor are attended by doulas? For example, I live in a small college town with 20-30 doulas but a tiny population of mamas...there just aren't enough pregnant women for each doula to have 2-3 mamas a month!

Also, some larger hospitals maintain doulas on staff. Perhpas this sort of "official" arrangement might work better for you since you'd have a known income and predictable hours. I'm in the process of getting my DONA certification because I really want to work with mamas/babies but the financial aspect is really important to me too (my dh is a grad student without a fellowship this year) so I understand your concerns!

Good luck!

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#7 of 9 Old 01-31-2006, 09:57 PM
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You could easily make that as a postartum doula if you are near a city.


Doula, Wife and mom to A (11/23/01) and O (5/7/09)
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#8 of 9 Old 02-01-2006, 10:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the info -- it helps a lot. It sounds like I probably shouldn't count on doula work for all the income I need at least at first. I am very interested in pp doula work so your post, Amy, was very encouraging.
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#9 of 9 Old 02-02-2006, 03:15 PM
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if you're in Chicago, I would assume you could do pretty well. It all depends on the going rate, and how many people are having babies in a given area. Where I am, the going rate is $500, and there are lots of women looking for doulas. So once you're established it wouldn't be hard to do two births a month-- so that, for me, would mean two interviews, four prenatals, two births, and two postpartums in each month. It is a lot of work for $1,000, but I also love it, so there's that! But if you combine that with doing postpartum work--for which there is a large demand--charging $25 or $30 per hour (again, this is a regional thing, I would imagine in Chicago you could charge that), then you could definitely make in your target income range. But it is tough on a family, all the uncertainty about when you will and won't be home. BUt if your DH is supportive, and he can do the childcare when you're working, it can work! But only if you've got the passion for it.

Best of luck,

Momma of three, born 9/2000, 1/2003 and 12/2012!  Married to my beautiful wife, whatever the law says. Nurse practitioner student, RN, childbirth educator and birth doula

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