Pros and Cons of “Free” or “Low Cost” Doulas

Let’s start with the pros…. There aren’t any.

That was easy! Let’s move on to the cons…

A free or low cost doula may have a million reasons for supporting clients for free, but the truth is… someone is paying. And if it isn’t the client, then it sure is the doula!

It can be a really expensive hobby.

Doulas often have childcare, gas, food, tolls, and parking fees to pay for supporting a client in labor. Or maybe they have another job and if they leave their job to support a client, they lose pay for hours not worked. If it comes down to a choice between the expenses above versus supporting the client, the finances and needs of the doula may trump the commitment to support the client.

If doulas are not being paid a living wage to support a client, THE DOULA is the one paying the price.

The ‘love for the work” only goes so far when paying bills, and… oh wait that’s right, the electric company won’t take feels for fees.
This “love” has shown to only last so long because free or low cost doulas cannot sustain this business model beyond 2-3 years.
A doula may choose to do free or low cost births because of the “feels” or a need to “save” the laboring person from a bad experience, but…

News flash! Doulas cannot save anyone from anything!

Can doulas help improve birth experiences with committed, unbiased support? Absolutely!

However doulas are not there to change birth outcomes, and the doula that works on this premise is doing the client and the doula industry a grave disservice. As far as the “feels” go… The birth is not about the doula! The only feels that matter are the laboring persons!

Have you ever heard that a doula “has” to do births for free or low cost? This is not true.

Once a doula has completed their training, they are fully prepared to support a client and deserve to be paid a living wage. Newly trained doulas may be required to attend births to complete the certification process, but they are NOT required to do it for free.
Providing free or low cost services hurts the doula, the industry, and those who make their living providing doula support for a wage.

The DC Doulas Difference

Our doulas are trained and certified by a professional organization, and have devoted their time and energy into being the very best.
Our doulas are paid a living wage which creates a sustainable job and an ability for them to care for themselves and their families.
Our doulas know that when their own families are taken care of, they can provide unwavering support to their clients no matter when, where, or how the birth happens.

We value our doulas and our clients, and have a strong commitment to providing the ultimate support for both.


3 responses to “Pros and Cons of “Free” or “Low Cost” Doulas”

  1. Katie S Patrick says:

    If the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true, free or low cost doulas concern me. If you are doing your doula business as a profession, as a professional, I would expect to pay for a professional’s services, at industry prices. “Free” or “low-cost” come across as cheap and easy…NOT something I want my birth experience entrusted to.

  2. Lois Perks says:

    And DC Doulas is a team you can trust! Thank you for commenting!

  3. Kelsey Norton says:

    Honestly, this strikes me as an incredibly privileged perspective. First of all, doulas can make a tremendous difference in birth outcomes! Of course they can’t change them, but actual science has shown doula support to reduce c-section rates and improve breastfeeding initiation. As those are two of the most major measures of maternal and infant well-being, I would say that’s a pretty big deal. Being that birth outcomes are the worst for low-income women, particularly women of color, the availability of free or low cost doulas can be a game changer! This is not to say that doulas should be required to pick up the tab, I absolutely think there should be community programs, grant funding, medicaid reimbursement, etc. But in the mean time, I will offer my services on a sliding scale, happily and proudly, as ability to pay should absolutely not be a determining factor in having awesome birth support.

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