So, you love babies, pregnancy, and childbirth and are considering becoming a career doula. There is just one thing holding you back — the doula salary.
Can you make it sustainable? Will it replace your part-time or full-time income? How are you going to handle burn out and being on call 24/7 almost always?
Being a doula is a work of heart, but it is important to charge a living wage to sustain you and your efforts when things start to wear on you.
As a doula with my own business, I learned very early on to charge my worth; my time, knowledge, and expertise are valuable. Time away from my kids and husband, the cost of babysitters and other expenses, and missing major life events like my baby rolling over for the first time are things I consider when setting my doula fee.
Not to mention attending a birth that takes two or three days, and another two or three days to recover physically and emotionally.
Considering all of this makes me confident enough to give myself a raise when necessary and not cringe when people ask what my doula fees are. I provide a lot of value to my clients, and I love serving growing families.
Charging a fair doula salary gets me through the more difficult times and makes it sustainable. Now, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of doula fees, and how much doulas earn.
Birth doula salary
Birth doulas provide many benefits and supports through pregnancy, birth, and up to two hours immediately post-birth.
A lot of factors influence what you should charge as a doula. Consider the cost of living in your area, the amount of training you have received, whether you are certified or not, and how long you have been a doula.
For example, in New York and San Francisco, doulas can charge $2,000+ per birth. A full-time doula salary in a large urban center can work out to roughly $96,000 annually.
Doulas in smaller towns with a lower cost of living might charge as little as $500 to $800 when they are just starting out. Doula salaries can be roughly $38,000 annually in smaller towns or rural areas.
How to calculate your doula fee
There are two main ways doulas set their fees—either a flat rate or by the hour. Both fee structures should consider the cost per hour of the total support, including:
- Prenatal visits
- A charge for being on call
- Birth attendance
- Postpartum support
Charging a flat fee for doula services
Client fees typically range from $500 to $2,500, depending on your location.
With a flat fee, no matter the total number of hours invested, whether 10 or 40, the price is the same. The hourly rate you earn will be different with every birth, depending on how long you are supporting your clients.
For example, if you charge a $1,000 flat fee and you spend 4 hours prenatally with the client, 12 hours supporting them at the birth, and 2 hours at a postpartum visit, that’s a total of 18 hours. The flat fee breaks down to $55 per hour.
However, the next birth could be 35 hours total, and you need to pay a backup doula to come in at $50 an hour for 5 hours (this comes out of your flat fee). The same $1,000 price equates to $21 per hour.
Charging by the hour for longer labor support
Some doulas choose to charge a flat fee, plus an hourly rate if longer labor support is needed. This type of fee includes everything listed above, but limits face to face birth support to 12-14 hours. With this method, labor support that lasts longer than 12-14 hours is billed at an hourly rate, typically $30-$50 an hour.
This fee structure allows a doula to be fairly compensated for longer births, and it covers associated costs involved like a backup doula.
Making sure your average doula salary adds up
No matter what method you choose to set your fee, a good rule of thumb is to set your average hourly rate to $40 to $60 per hour, depending on your experience. If you charge a flat fee as I do, some of your births will work out to $80 per hour, and some will be at $10 per hour.
When I first started as a doula and was charging much less, I attended a 3-day long birth where the hourly fee ended up being just over $4 an hour.
It wiped me out.
Shorter labors will compensate for longer labors, and will even out to your average hourly rate. I review my average rate every six months or so, and I make sure it all averages out to where I want to be.
When calculating your hourly rate, make sure to remember that about half your fee will cover business expenses such as taxes, licensure, continuing education, gas, car maintenance, babysitters, office supplies, etc.
So a $40 per hour rate is about $20 an hour after expenses.
Consider intangible costs like continuously being on call, missing birthdays, vacations, weddings, being up all night, sometimes for multiple days. It takes a physical and emotional toll, so make sure you are compensated accordingly.
The number of clients you take on per month has an effect on your annual doula salary. A part-time doula continuously taking 1-2 clients a month might take home $8,000-$20,000 a year.
A full-time doula in a large city with an always full schedule of 4-5 clients per month could make upwards of $100,000 a year.
Postpartum doula salary
Postpartum doulas typically charge by the hour, and depending on the services involved, can range from $20 to $50 per hour. Most postpartum doulas have support packages that group hours together, such as 20 hours, 40 hours, etc.
Usually, the more hours purchased, the lower the hourly rate will be.
Postpartum clients usually purchase in the range of 40-500 hours of support. If you are averaging 40 hours per week as a postpartum doula, your annual salary could be $50,000 to $90,000 annually.
Can certification improve your doula business?
When you get certified as a doula through a credible organization such as DONA, CAPPA, CBI, or DTI, you can charge higher rates because you have attended more training—charging 10% to 20% more per birth after certification is typical.
However, being certified does not automatically increase your doula salary; there are many other things to consider, as well.
You can do other things to increase your doula income, including additional training and certifications, specializing in certain types of birth, or offering services such as placenta encapsulation or childbirth education.
Here at The VBAC Link we are proud to support continuing education for doulas with specialized training in VBAC and Cesarean with our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification. Sign up today to increase your knowledge (and your doula fee!).