The addition of a doula to your home birth, or natural birth in any setting, is a wonderful decision for so many mommas. A birth doula is a highly trained birthing professional that provides continuous physical and emotional support to the birthing momma, and her partner, throughout labor and delivery.

The thing is, hiring a doula for your home birth is often very expensive. So, despite the many benefits they bring to the birth experience, and their association with greater birth satisfaction and lower rates of medical interventions, families who wish they could hire a doula skip it for monetary reasons.

Well, momma. What if I told you that doesn’t need to be the case?

There are a few different ways to have a doula present at your birth for a lowered cost, or maybe even free! Some ways to make this your reality are by:

  • Finding a doula who’s working on their certification
  • Bartering for doula care
  • Utilizing a payment plan
  • Finding a volunteer doula
  • Applying to financial hardship programs
  • Adding doula care to your baby registry
  • Using pre-tax dollars to pay for doula care

We’re going to cover all of these options in detail below, along with some more details about what a doula is, the pros and cons of hiring a doula, and more!

What is a doula?

To put it frankly, a doula is your birthing fairy godmother 😉 But in all seriousness, a doula is a trained birthing professional that supports birthing mommas (and their partners) in their preparations for birth, during labor and delivery, and in the first hours after birth.

The support of a doula comes in the form of providing information and advocacy. Doulas provide emotional and physical support to you and are there to help your partner feel more confident and able to support you during the monumental event of birth.

A doula does not take the place of a midwife during a home birth but is a wonderful supplement to your birthing team. Your doula will provide constant and undivided support and care throughout your birth process. Her number one priority will be your comfort, well-being, and overall birth experience.

Is a doula worth it? A quick look at the pros and cons of hiring a doula

According to Evidence Based Birth, a survey from 2012 found that around 6% of birthing mothers used a doula, but of those who understood what they were, 27% would have liked a doula at their birth.

And you know what, with the prevalence of doula care and general knowledge of doulas on the rise, plus the info on how to bring the cost of doula care down, I’m willing to bet that number would be even higher. And for good reason!

If you do a quick Google search of doula reviews or hop on a couple of pregnancy forums where women are discussing doulas, there is SO much anecdotal support of birthing doulas. Mommas from all over the country say how much they and their partners loved having a doula at their birth.

The pros of having a doula at your birth

  1. Studies have shown that birthing with a doula can decrease the rate of C-sections by 50%, shorten labor by 25%, and (if you’re birthing in a hospital) bring down epidural requests by 60%
  2. A 2011 study showed that women who birthed with doulas were 31% less likely to use Pitocin to speed up their labors. This might be especially useful if you are a first-time momma attempting a home birth. This is because slow or stalled labor is the number one reason for hospital transfers during home births for first-time mothers
  3. Your doula will provide you with constant and undivided support as opposed to the roughly 6-10% of time an L&D nurse is able or available to provide hands-on support. Research shows constant support is a main contributor in a positive birth experience and healthy birth outcome. (additional source)
  4. Doulas have professional training in providing excellent pain-management strategies, often through counter-pressure, massage, and acupressure
  5. A doula can provide your partner with the know-how to help you manage labor pain in a more meaningful and hands-on way

Potential cons of having a doula at your birth

  1. You’re concerned about the cost. Having a doula at your birth isn’t considered necessary. So, if your budget is spread thin and none of the ideas on this list to help get one for a lower cost seem to be working for you, you may want to skip it
  2. Doulas are another person present at your birth. If you are a highly private person or don’t find you easily connect with others, you may feel uncomfortable with another person in your birthing space
  3. Your partner isn’t on board. If your partner doesn’t fully understand or support the idea to have a doula this can be a definite con. Helping him understand that a doula doesn’t replace him, but actually supports him too, might help change his mind

How much does a doula cost?

Alright, we’re about to find out how to get a doula for a lower price, or even free, but let’s first understand what the baseline is. Naturally, the cost of doula care (much like the cost of a home birth and professional birth photography) varies widely based on your location.

In general, you can expect to pay between $800-$2500 for a full-price doula. This price is often highest in metropolitan areas and places where the cost of living in high.

The price of doula care usually involves 1-3 prenatal visits, 24-7 on-call care to join you as soon as labor begins, care for the entire duration of your labor and birth, and 1-3 postpartum visits. Understanding the details of what your doula care will entail is an important question to ask before choosing a doula.

In some cases, you can negotiate the price down for fewer visits, or negotiate a change in the frequency of visits (like opting for more postpartum visits, a time where you might be more in need of support).

6 ways to get a doula for free or at a lower cost

Don’t let the average cost of doula care scare you away from your dream of having a doula on your birth team just yet, momma! Hiring a birth doula doesn’t have to break your home birth budget. Here are 6 ideas to help you afford a doula at your birth.

1. Find a doula who’s working on their certification

Becoming a certified doula is a lengthy process that typically involves evidence-based birth education coursework, attendance of childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, birth doula training, and — most importantly for you, the momma trying to score a free doula—providing birth doula support at 2-7 births.

Doula certification programs don’t let their doulas-in-training go out and provide birth doula services until they’ve completed a rigorous amount of education and coursework. At this point, doulas at the end of their certification often provide free (or reduced-cost) birth doula services. This is where you can benefit!

To find doulas that are nearing the end of their certification and looking to attend births for free, you can:

  • Call local doula networks in your area
  • Contact DONA
  • Ask your midwife if she can connect you with an apprentice doula
  • Try scanning Facebook groups of natural birthing mothers in your area.

I actually frequently see women offering to attend births to complete their doula certification in my own local “crunchy” momma Facebook group.

2. Use the bartering system to hire your doula

Because doulas are so passionate about their work and genuinely love providing birth support, many are open to less traditional forms of payment. If you or your partner has a skill of equal value to the cost of hiring a birth doula, take a chance and make a barter proposal.

For example, if you are a photographer you could offer a free photography session for the doula and her family. If you are a web developer or SEO expert, you could create a website to showcase her doula services or help her rank on Google. Maybe your partner owns a tree removal company and she has a bunch of dead oaks in her yard. I think you get the idea.

Get creative, but make sure you don’t insult her with your barter offer. Keep her rates in mind and show her why the service you can offer in exchange is a fair deal for all parties involved.

3. Utilize a payment plan to make hiring a doula a reality

While this tip doesn’t erase the doula cost, it can make it more manageable. Many doulas are willing to work with you on a payment plan that involves little or no money down. Together, you can come up with a monthly payment that you can afford in order to chip away at the doula cost over time.

If you decide to go this route, just be sure that you can fully commit to the payment plan. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be taking maternity leave and bringing in less money. Also, factor in family budget changes with a new baby when deciding what you can afford monthly to help pay for doula care.

In the event that you know you want to hire a doula early in your pregnancy, try to find someone right away. This will allow you to pay for her services in installments BEFORE you give birth. Taking this route means the debt won’t be hanging over your head after birth and paying for it was more manageable because you did it in smaller chunks.

4. Find a volunteer doula or find a doula that offers free care based on financial hardship

Because doula care is (rightfully) so expensive, but research shows a wide range of benefits associated with birth doulas, there are many volunteer doula programs across the country.

Some hospitals have specific programs where you sign-up and receive a doula based on availability. In other cases, there are non-profits or private organizations that offer free volunteer doula care.

Sometimes doula networks or volunteer doula programs assign doula care based on financial need or offer care on a sliding scale. If you think your family might qualify, you can contact a local doula resource and find out how to apply based on your family’s income.

This is also a great topic to discuss with your midwife because she can likely point you in the right direction.

6. Add a ‘doula care fund’ to your baby registry

Because baby registries are most often found online and streamlined through sites like Babylist and MyRegistry, couples now have the freedom to register for cash fund gifts without the taboo of asking for cash. I’ve actually found that gift-givers love the idea of contributing to an experience or service that a birthing couple needs, rather than getting them more stuff.

Do you see where I’m going with this? By creating your registry on one of these sites, you can put a birth doula on your baby registry and have loved ones help defray the high the cost.

7. Use pre-tax dollars by paying for doula care with your health care spending account

If your company offers a health care spending account, often referred to as an HSA, you may be able to use your flex-spending card to pay for birth doula care with pre-taxed dollars. In many cases, birth doula care is classified as health care spending. Given the average amount our income is taxed; this can provide a savings of over 30%!

You can easily look at your plan’s guidelines, or even make a phone call to see if birth doula services would qualify before you decide to go this route.

8. Call your insurance company to see if doula care is covered

While it is a long shot that your doula cost will be covered by insurance, it’s not impossible. Some women report partial or full coverage of their doula care by their insurance company. Hey, it never hurts to call and find out!

Get creative and you can have a doula at your birth for a lower cost!

Well momma, there you have it! A variety of strategies to put in place to help realize your dream of a birth doula for a lower cost, or maybe even free.

This will require some research and prodding on your part, but it will be so worth it. Just remember all of the pros to having a doula at your birth, and don’t let cost be the reason you go without one.

Hey Momma, Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Hey Momma, Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailling list so you don't miss out on our great articles, product reviews, and special offers.  We don't like spam, just like you, so we send only a few emails a month that contain only best stuff.

Boom! Here comes the good stuff Momma!