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Switching Careers: Birth Doula

Are you thinking about becoming a birth doula?

Wondering what it’s like to be a doula? We asked seven experienced doulas to tell us about the realities of doula work and give you the inside track. If their stories inspire you and you want to learn more about how to become a doula, check out our free guide on the steps to becoming a doula.

Exie – Michigan, USA

What inspired you to become a doula?

I entered massage therapy school knowing I wanted to specialize in prenatal massage. During one of my elective classes, a fellow student shared their recent experience at a weekend doula workshop, and I was intrigued that I could expand my support from the massage room to the labor room. Immediately upon graduation, I followed up my base massage training by enrolling in a program to become a Certified Prenatal Massage Therapist. The program offered its graduates the opportunity to enroll in their Certified Massage Doula Program (CMD), so I did that knowing I wanted to build on the relationships with those clients to support them during their births

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

I was working full-time in massage, building my business, and as my clientele for prenatal massage grew, my doula client base did too. I had my first doula birth one year after graduating from massage school and was certified with that organization as a CMD from 2007-2016. I was first certified with CBI as a childbirth educator in 2012 to fulfill my massage doula renewal requirements and loved the program so much that I enrolled in CBI’s birth doula course, graduating in 2015 – I chose not to renew my massage doula certification at that point.

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

I tend to develop personal relationships with my clients, not in the least because we mostly frequent the same places/events as part of the local expat community. Once they go into labor, I love to see them find their strength, I love to see the partners being so supportive and loving, and when births are difficult, I am glad I can be there for them — actually, all the more so.

What do you usually do as a doula?

It begins with listening to a potential client’s thoughts and concerns about their pregnancy journey and upcoming birth. I always try to impart some useful tips or information, perhaps a referral for additional support, so that even if we don’t work together, they can have something helpful to take with them. If we do agree to work together, I educate and inform, based on their needs. I encourage the birthing person and their partner to develop a care plan that includes their emotional and communication needs for their providers. During the on-call time, I stay in contact and answer questions, reassure any anxieties, and help them build trust in their body sensations that will help us identify when labor begins together. Once I join them, support is often first emotional, then physical in various ways throughout the process. I present myself to all the medical team members and work as a liaison to ensure my clients always understand what is happening and are at the center of all decisions

What’s it like being on call?

After almost ten years of being a doula, being on call is still somewhat stressful, as I have no backup. It’s getting much easier now that my children are older and I am looking forward to taking on more clients, provided regulations around hospital access relax again (most places still only allow one support person at this time, “because COVID”).

What’s it like to work at night?

I personally don’t have a problem with that — adrenaline wakes me up fine! I am more concerned about driving back home when I’m tired. I keep reminding myself that I can take a nap in the car before getting started (most hospitals my clients birth at are at least 30 minutes away, often about an hour), but the desire to take a shower and put my feet up usually prevails.

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

I am actually very comfortable with that. I usually visit the hospital (at least) once with my client during a prenatal appointment to properly introduce myself and explain my role, and although I don’t get to meet the L&D staff at this time (because COVID), my presence is noted on the chart and I find most providers are actually quite relieved to have someone who can help translate.

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

I can’t recall a birthing client I didn’t like (I’m very lucky in that way!), but there were definitely a couple of partners I found unhelpful, even disruptive. I hope and trust I was able to not let my true feelings transpire, and focused on redirecting their attention when I sensed their attitude was negatively impacting the birthing person.

How much can you charge?

$1500-$2000 (virtual & in person)

How much can you earn in a month?

With births alone, not much, as I am not attending many at this time! Between births, childbirth education, and trainer work I earn about 2000 USD/month.

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

If something goes wrong, I support my clients in any way that is possible and appropriate, then practice self-care if I suffer from vicarious trauma. I haven’t witnessed a stillbirth yet, but I did attend a couple of births where obstetric violence was used, and I have taken my time to process them with the help of other trusted professionals.

What happens if you miss a birth?

Fortunately this has only occurred a few times in my career. Only one was because I was too far away to make it in time. The others happened while I was en route to the hospital. I do my best to provide emotional support and if it is practical, physical support any way I can once I arrive.

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

It’s not easy since I have no backup and my main source of childcare is my husband, who is incredibly supportive and mostly available even with short notice, but sometimes simply cannot get out of work. As mentioned before, I am looking forward to being able to take on more clients as my daughters become more self-sufficient.

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

That’s exactly what I am doing, and it helps that my other part-time jobs are also birth-related, and that I am my own boss! I know many of my students have other jobs, not sure how they manage honestly.

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

At least 4 times before the birth and 1 time after

Is the job as good as it looks?

I believe it is. I actually wish I could do more!

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

The feeling you get after attending a birth. Knowing you made a difference in this family’s experience, no matter how much your back and feet hurt!

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

What inspired you to become a doula?

I was inspired to become a birth attendant when I took my first-ever class with a midwife at Ifetayo’s Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY in 1995. I was a college student in an African Psychology class, and my professor thought it essential to volunteer and work in the communities we studied. I was thrilled to gain hands-on experience, and it was an added plus to learn directly from an urban midwife about the journey of caring for others during birth.

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

Prior to becoming a doula, I was an environmentalist, artist, poet, and organizer (unions and political). I still do all of those things, and in many ways, I see how they intersect with birth work. I am a mother who has given birth to five living children and who has also lost five pregnancies. As a Black woman in a society that has marginalized many of our communities, how we are treated during our pregnancy can greatly impact our health in the postpartum period. In the United States, Black women face higher mortality rates than White women. I am an appointee on our state Maternal Mortality Review Committee as a Doula and a Priest and work to uncover the causes and change the outcomes for Black birthing bodies. My work as a Doula extends beyond the birthing room and into the Department of Health and state legislator as I advocate for greater resources for Black and Indigenous birthing people.

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

Feven – Bermuda

What inspired you to become a doula?

Our youngest often likes to remind me that she was the reason I decided to become a doula! She would be right, in part! My first birth ended up in an unplanned c-section after what was a straightforward pregnancy and early labor. This was very traumatic for both my husband and me. We did not feel informed, safe, respected, and listened to by our care providers. When we decided to have a second child, we knew we wanted to have a different experience, regardless of the birth outcome. We attended a childbirth class that was geared for people opting for a VBAC and hired a doula who was a great source of support. Sometime towards the pushing phase, I remember deciding that I wanted to become a doula so I can be a source of support for other women and happened to vocalize it – and yes I had a VBAC! So I took my then five-month-old baby to an in-person doula training and attended my first birth in April of 2009. I have since completed the CBI Birth Doula course as I felt it ticked a number of essential boxes that a weekend workshop didn’t. 

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

I am a Certified Montessori Early Childhood Educator. I worked in a local Montessori School for 17 years before transitioning to full-time birth work. For 12 of those years, I worked as a doula during my summer holidays and other school breaks. Having back-up doula support was especially crucial during these years. 

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

Adele – Korea

What inspired you to become a doula?

Seeing the difference that having a doula made at my own birth. She did have to travel several hours to reach me and was the only one willing to do so, and so I realized there was a huge need for birth support in my area. When a friend asked me to be her doula for her upcoming birth, I decided to get certified and make a career out of it!

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

At the time I was working on a telecommuting basis in an entirely different field. I kept that job until I became certified, then once I was ready to start attending births on a regular basis, I quit and opened my own company. It was challenging at first not to have a regular income, but I felt that I got so much more than money out of doula work — and I still feel that way.

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

Xenia – Greece

What inspired you to become a doula?

The births of my three children and the gap I found in terms of how (un)prepared I was to navigate the emotional journey that followed.

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

I come from a corporate marketing background with experience in FMCG brand strategy development, consumer behavior and digital CRM. I headed a multiband, omnichannel CRM program for over 15 years and during the last three, simultaneously studied to become a postpartum and lactation professional.

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

Carmen – Michigan, USA

What inspired you to become a doula?

I have always had an interest in working with pregnant and birthing families and new parents. It took me many years to get to this path. I started working toward a nursing career, but it was not a good fit. It wasn’t until my own birth experiences that I discovered doulas and felt that this would be the right fit for me.

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

I worked in marketing before this. It was not really what I wanted to do, but I struggled to find something that was a good fit for the type of work I wanted to do with families. It was just a job so when I decided to become a doula it was a complete career change. I worked through the time I was earning my certifications, but quick and changed my career completely once my certifications were done.

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

What inspired you to become a doula?

I have always had an interest in working with pregnant and birthing families and new parents. It took me many years to get to this path. I started working toward a nursing career, but it was not a good fit. It wasn’t until my own birth experiences that I discovered doulas and felt that this would be the right fit for me.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

What inspired you to become a doula?

When I was first doing my research into working in the birth world, I knew that I would be a non-gestational parent with my wife giving birth and I wanted to find resources to support myself and my transition to parenting as a queer person. Let me tell you, there were *no* resources in 2011 and *no one* was talking about how to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community! I started really considering birth and lactation work as a possible stepping stone into midwifery care, but I’ve found working directly with families outside of the medical system more rewarding.

What did you do before doula work & how did you transition to being a doula?

What’s it like seeing someone else give birth?

What do you usually do as a doula?

What’s it like being on call?

What’s it like to work at night?

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

How much can you charge?

How much can you earn in a month?

What if something goes wrong at a birth?

What happens if you miss a birth?

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Is the job as good as it looks?

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

d

What inspired you to become a doula?

When I was first doing my research into working in the birth world, I knew that I would be a non-gestational parent with my wife giving birth and I wanted to find resources to support myself and my transition to parenting as a queer person. Let me tell you, there were *no* resources in 2011 and *no one* was talking about how to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community! I started really considering birth and lactation work as a possible stepping stone into midwifery care, but I’ve found working directly with families outside of the medical system more rewarding.

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Prior to becoming a doula, I was an environmentalist, artist, poet, and organizer (unions and political). I still do all of those things, and in many ways, I see how they intersect with birth work. I am a mother who has given birth to five living children and who has also lost five pregnancies. As a Black woman in a society that has marginalized many of our communities, how we are treated during our pregnancy can greatly impact our health in the postpartum period. In the United States, Black women face higher mortality rates than White women. I am an appointee on our state Maternal Mortality Review Committee as a Doula and a Priest and work to uncover the causes and change the outcomes for Black birthing bodies. My work as a Doula extends beyond the birthing room and into the Department of Health and state legislator as I advocate for greater resources for Black and Indigenous birthing people.

Feven – Bermuda

I am a Certified Montessori Early Childhood Educator. I worked in a local Montessori School for 17 years before transitioning to full-time birth work. For 12 of those years, I worked as a doula during my summer holidays and other school breaks. Having back-up doula support was especially crucial during these years. 

Adele – Korea

At the time I was working on a telecommuting basis in an entirely different field. I kept that job until I became certified, then once I was ready to start attending births on a regular basis, I quit and opened my own company. It was challenging at first not to have a regular income, but I felt that I got so much more than money out of doula work — and I still feel that way.

Xenia – Greece

I come from a corporate marketing background with experience in FMCG brand strategy development, consumer behavior and digital CRM. I headed a multiband, omnichannel CRM program for over 15 years and during the last three, simultaneously studied to become a postpartum and lactation professional.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I worked in marketing before this. It was not really what I wanted to do, but I struggled to find something that was a good fit for the type of work I wanted to do with families. It was just a job so when I decided to become a doula it was a complete career change. I worked through the time I was earning my certifications, but quick and changed my career completely once my certifications were done.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

Before becoming a doula, I was working in animal care and pet nutrition! I trained and walked dogs and really enjoyed helping families prepare their dogs (and cats!) to welcome a baby. Transitioning to working as a doula was weirdly natural as I was already connected to my community through my work with their furbabies. Most of my other work experience was customer service based so it was an easy transition for me.

What’s it like seeing someone else giving birth?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Strong
Surreal
Powerful
Courageous
Natural
Intentional

Feven – Bermuda

Powerful

Adele – South Korea

Profoundly moving. Lots of emotions run through me and those vary from client to client.

Xenia – Greece

Life changing, I would say, and an incredible honor.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

There are a lot of different feelings and emotions that come with this. Much of it can depend on the overall experience with each individual client, but there are always some strong emotions that come with being with someone when they give birth.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

I think I’m an outlier and feel fairly neutrally about seeing someone else give birth! For me, the moment of birth feels like such an intimate and spiritual moment for my clients that I always try to prioritize my client’s partner(s) and chosen support people being front-and-center to be a part of that experience. That being said, I always find it moving when a client is hitting transition and they’re doubting themselves and their partner(s) always find the perfect thing to say or do to help them keep going. That moment is really special for me as a doula.

What do you usually do as a doula?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

I listen, teach, encourage and share tools for clients to advocate on their own behalf. My doula works cross into some of my other work and so I also support and hold ceremonies for people for preconception, pregnancy loss, abortion, postpartum care, and for many of the transitional periods that humans encounter. I offer resources and connect with other birth attendants.

Feven – Bermuda

I provide informational, practical and emotional support to clients during their pregnancy, birth and the first 6weeks postpartum. More recently, I have been working on advocacy and work with community partners to encourage policy and procedural changes that improve birth outcomes in my community.

Adele – South Korea

A lot of my work involves cultural mediation, as I work almost exclusively with expat parents (or mixed Korean-expat couples). Aside from “classical” doula work involving various forms of physical and emotional support, I help my clients communicate with their chosen medical providers before and during birth, bridging cultural gaps as needed (e.g. around vocalization or nakedness, which are frowned upon in Korean culture). Even postpartum, I am often asked to help my clients find a trusted pediatrician or lactation professional, and sometimes accompany them to their first visit to help them navigate the medical system.

Xenia – Greece

I am based in Athens and work with families in Greece, but also abroad, during both the pre and postnatal period. Prenatally, I offer group and one-on-one workshops designed to help prepare families for postpartum (including infant feeding). Some are targeted at the birthing person, some primarily at partners (with a focus on their role and transition), and others at the couple (when there are dual partner families) and their transition into parenthood. A big part of what I do is at-home postpartum infant feeding support, one-on-one tailored postpartum support, and a 6-week postpartum support group program targeted specifically to birthing people with babies aged 0-12 months.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

There are so many different things that a doula can do and so many roles that can be filled. However, what I feel like I do most is provide emotional support. Of course, a huge part of the work is helping clients sort through their choices and explore information, but even through this I find that I am called on most to be a reassuring and positive presence with clients.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

I started out working with any family but quickly focused my support down to 2SLGBTQIA+ families and families who had experienced infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. My clients typically have intense support needs and I spend a considerable amount of time texting or messaging with them about what they’re feeling, what they might expect in the next stage of pregnancy, and working on affirmations and self-care. My support is heavily focused on the prenatal period from when my clients find out they’re pregnant (sometimes even from ovulation!) where I emphasize goal planning, setting expectations and boundaries, and education.

What’s it like being on call?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Being on call is exciting, invigorating, challenging, and can sometimes be tough without having a backup. I have missed some moments with my family and had to navigate illnesses and challenges among my loved ones.

Feven – Bermuda

It can be exhilarating and challenging at the same time. It requires flexibility and a support network that understands the nature of my work.

Adele – South Korea

It was more logistically challenging when my kids were young and in school. Heading into my 18th year, it is less so, especially since we are accustomed to always having a backup plan and a backup to the backup plan. I’ve learned not to sweat it if there’s a social engagement during that time – although I avoid doing things like buying theater tickets when I know I’ll be on call.

Xenia – Greece

I do not currently work on call, nor have I in the past.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

This is probably the thing that I have always struggled most with. I don’t always do well with an unpredictable schedule and that is exactly what being on call is, unpredictable. Over the years this has been something that I have had to work on a lot in order to make it easier for me and for my family, but in the end I felt that the right thing for me was to limit the amount of on call work I would do. I now focus mostly on scheduled work because that was the right thing for me.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

It can be a lot! I started birth work when I was child-free which offered more freedom and flexibility. Once my child was born, I worked hard to ensure there was an adequate balance of resting and family time so everyone’s needs were met. One thing to recognize is that you’ll probably miss some family dinners, gatherings, or parties but being clear with your family about when you’ll have uninterrupted time can help manage that.

What’s it like to work at night?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Holy… sacred… intense. To work while people around you sleep is powerful.

Feven – Bermuda

It can be challenging if I have not had enough lead time and have not taken the time to rest during the day.

Adele – South Korea

I’m a chronic insomniac, so I can manage the sleep deprivation fairly well. I dress in layers and bring a blanket and rechargeable hand warmers since body temps drop at night and hospitals are cold.

Xenia – Greece

I do not offer overnight support, nor do I support birth clients through the night. This is a boundary which I needed to define in order to make my professional work ‘work’ for me and my family.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I don’t mind working at night. I am a night person so being up at night while everyone else is quiet is something that works for me. Since I don’t mind night work I have overscheduled overnights with postpartum clients at times. So it has been important for me to be aware of this and make sure I am caring for myself and being more realistic about what will work in the long term.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

I’m a night owl and found this part a lot easier than waking up really early to go to an early morning birth. It’s helpful to ensure you’re getting enough protein, carbs, and hydration without going too hard on the sweets and caffeine so you can still get to sleep when you’re done!

What’s it like going into a hospital for the first time as a doula?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

I highly recommend that the first time you go to the hospital be before the birth or the beginning of postpartum work. Building a rapport with Labor and delivery ahead of time can help make things run smoother during the birth and in the postpartum period.

Feven – Bermuda

I liken my first time working at the hospital to the first day of school!

Adele – South Korea

It can be exciting and a little intimidating. I’ve learned to always make sure I know my client’s room number if I am joining them after they were admitted. Each hospital is a little different (we have over a dozen in our community) so I always run a mental review of where to park, enter, and what floor it is located, as well as what kind of security I’ll have to face (some have gated parking, metal detectors, and X-ray machines for bags).

Xenia – Greece

In a country (Greece) where doula work continues to be overlooked and underappreciated, it has felt like a privilege for me personally, to be received in a hospital setting by medical professionals who acknowledged me as a key member of their client’s postpartum and lactation support team.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I felt very mixed emotions. There was a lot of excitement and also a lot of nervousness. This has lessened a lot over the years, but if I’m honest, these emotions are still there a little bit with every birth.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

I found it nerve-wracking as someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in hospitals, but it fades as you spend more time there and get to know the ins and outs of hospital life. When you’re there with clients, try and be kind and supportive of the nursing staff, doctors, and midwives and it helps things go more smoothly!

Do you get clients that you don’t like?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

No. I have had clients with whom I don’t share their beliefs but I think it’s important to care about the people I work with and I hope that we can work out our differences to create the healthiest relationship. If this is not the case I offer other birth attendants to the clients and work to help them meet the attendant in question.

Feven – Bermuda

From time to time I work with clients whose personalities can be challenging and I have learned over years to work hard to attract the ideal client as well as develop a system of debriefing and processing client experiences, which have been incredibly helpful

Adele – South Korea

I try not to by using my consultations as a screening process as well.

Xenia – Greece

Absolutely! There are clients with whom I connect with and relate to and who I may enjoy supporting more than others, and this is ok. Every person is different and what enables a connection with my clients is not about whether I like them personally (or whether they like me) but rather depends on the extent to which they feel safe and comfortable enough to open up and accept help from me.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I have honestly never had this happen! I think that for the most part what we put out there in our marketing is what determines the type of clients we tend to bring in. I think that this has meant that the clients that seek me out have been a good fit for me. That doesn’t mean I agree with every choice every one of my clients has ever made, but that is completely different. My clients choices don’t impact the way that I see them as a person.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

Rarely, as I’m in charge of deciding who I take on as a client and who I pass on as a referral. I’ve found that being explicit about my values as a birth professional, the work I do, and the kind of support I offer helps to ensure my clients know what they’re going to get from me. I also ask clients to share their expectations of me, their other support people, their care providers, and themselves alongside their goals for their birth in our consultation meeting to see if we’ll be a good fit. I like to work with clients who want to learn and do some research on their own so I’m always clear in my marketing about that!

How much can you charge?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

How much are your services worth? What is the impact of your services? Does your state or locality offer reimbursement? Does your income cover your tax bill? Other way around?

Feven – Bermuda

US$1,500 (I work with a team of doulas)

Adele – South Korea

At this time I am charging the equivalent of 1000 USD per birth, including two prenatal visits (of which one can be virtual) and one postnatal. I also charge extra if labor support goes past the 12-hour mark.

Xenia – Greece

There is no official ‘cap’ in the market where I live with regards to how we are ‘allowed’ to charge for our services. I have defined my rates however, based on an understanding of what similar professionals will charge in this market. Also, for those clients who would like support but may have difficulty affording it, I offer a discounted rate and flexible payment options which they may consider.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

There are a lot of factors that go into this such as experience, the regional rates, and personal choice. As an example, the range for a birth doula package in my area tends to be anywhere from $700-$1500.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

Whatever is sustainable for you! In my current specialization and with the amount of time I spend with clients, I typically charge between $1950-$2500CAD. This is above and beyond what is typically charged in my community, and that’s okay! We each offer our own style of support, and our clients find value in the ways we work together. What you charge has nothing to do with anyone else because only you know what you need to make for your work to be sustainable.

How much can you earn in a month?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

That depends on your personal capacity.

Feven – Bermuda

Between $3000-$4000

Adele – South Korea

It depends on the number of clients you take which may depend on the number of facilities in your community. For me, we have so many hospitals that I’ve had to travel from one hospital to another an hour away in the same day. I try to avoid that kind of pressure by limiting the number of clients I accept.

Xenia – Greece

I think that this depends on how many hours you choose to work, the number of clients you are willing to take on, and the types of services you are happy to offer. It also depends, of course, on the needs and level of awareness of these needs in the people whom you hope to reach.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

That depends on how many clients you want to take per month. Most months I only take one client, but some doulas take many more than that. The most I personally would ever be willing to take in a single month would be 3 clients. That means I could potentially make as much as $4500 per month.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

This is highly dependent on how many clients you take, what your expenses are, what you charge your clients, and what amount of your fee contributes to your wage. If you know you need to bring in a certain amount every month once you’re fully established, you can start dividing it by the number of clients you want to support each month and use that as your base amount in your fee structure. As a small business owner, you’ll be both your greatest asset and greatest barrier when it comes to how much you can earn.

What if something goes wrong in the birth?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

This is always a possibility. I do my best to see each part of the process as steps. If a step is misaligned it can alter everything that attempts to ascend it. I would allow myself time to process and heal and create opportunities to listen deeply to my client.

Feven – Bermuda

I debrief with my colleagues, I also see a therapist every month.

Adele – South Korea

If you do this work long enough, it will happen. During the crisis, it is important to stay focused on the client and their partner. Helping them feel safe and understand what is happening to the extent that they require is important. Staying calm and making myself helpful to the medical staff when possible has proven invaluable to how my clients process these experiences later. Debriefing with clients later if they are open to that can help them. Discussing what happened and my feelings with my spouse while protecting client confidentiality helps me process it. I also engage in extensive reflective practice in the days and weeks after.

Xenia – Greece

Birth is amongst, if not the most, unpredictable event in a person’s life. And while we may be dedicated to supporting our clients towards having the birth they envision, what’s also important is preparing them (and ourselves) for alternative outcomes. As we do this planning work, it is equally important to align with our clients on the specific role that we will play. Supporting them on their journey is what we do, but support can be interpreted differently by different people. The clearer we become about what our clients expect, the more equipped we may be to adapt and respond to our clients’ needs should things not turned out as planned. What’s also important, when things go wrong, is having a support strategy for us, and giving ourselves the time to process the feelings which may come up when things go wrong.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

As a doula it is not my job to “fix” the problem. At the point that something does go wrong I need to be ready to adapt and also help my client adapt and process what is going on. This may mean helping them create a new plan that fits within their new circumstances, helping them understand what is happening and why, simply being a source of emotional support for them, or it may mean helping them reflect and process what happened after the fact.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

What-ifs are hard to work through and also infinite. Babies and bodies don’t read textbooks so there is always just a slew of things that could happen that aren’t “according to plan,” but not everything that can go wrong is a tragedy. If you’re doing this work long enough, things will go wrong, and it’s important to remember our role as support people. We can step up the emotional support during difficult/unexpected changes in the birth plan, and we can step back when the care team needs more space to manage the situation. In either opportunity, we want to take care of our client and their partner’s emotional needs while preparing to have someone take care of ours while we debrief afterward.

What happens if you miss a birth?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

I meditate, I pray, and I follow up with the parent and we make a plan for additional postpartum visits. The reason for missing the birth determines if a any or all of the pre-paid funds are returned to the client.

Feven – Bermuda

I work with a team of other doulas so our clients understand that while I make every effort to attend their birth as their primary doula, that life circumstances, and overlap with other clients would impact this. They will have at least one opportunity to meet the rest of the team. So far all our clients have been attended. However, we also have a contract that offers them a refund if the reason I missed a birth, is due to our error.

Adele – South Korea

Depending on how it happens, I offer a refund. I have missed four births to date — in three cases I arrived too late as they were precipitous labors (and both two hours away), but I still provided support in the immediate postpartum and in the following days. As my contract states, no refunds are given in this situation, and thankfully all my clients were very happy, although I did struggle as I felt I had failed them somehow. The other one was more difficult for me to process as it was a virtual birth and my clients mostly needed help while at home, but by the time I saw the missed calls they were already at their chosen facility, where communication became very sporadic. I was glad to know they got very good support, but the fact that my help was no longer needed offered no relief from the guilt! I did provide extra postpartum hours and they were extremely gracious about the whole mishap, but I did send them a partial refund regardless. It took me a long time to get over the guilt and frustration – I had one job, and that was answering the phone, but I had forgotten to unmute it. Interestingly, I have never missed a call by a client in labor, but even if I had, in an in-person birth I would have still joined my clients with plenty of time. Virtual births are hard on the doula for that reason — we are often left to wait for hours, unaware of what’s going on, unable to help. Since then, I have been quite reluctant to take on virtual clients, although not many have contacted me anyway as I charge almost the same amount as an in-person birth.

Xenia – Greece

I do not currently do any birth doula work, but this is certainly something to be aligned with your clients prenatally. What some doulas agree with their clients is that as long as it was not the doula’s ‘fault’ for missing the birth (did not answer their phone, for instance), then they are paid in full for their work.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I try to always arrange for a backup doula in the event that something comes up to prevent me from making it to a birth. However, this also depends a lot on why I miss the birth. Of a client simply didn’t call me, unfortunately, that is their responsibility and there is nothing that I could have done to change this. If something personal comes up such as an illness or a family matter this is where a backup doula comes into play. These situations are clearly outlined in my contract so that clients know how to deal with things from the very beginning of our time working together.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

You apologize and move on, for the most part! Generally, you’ll miss rapid or precipitous births because they’re so speedy or you might miss a birth for inclement weather. On the rare occasion, maybe you miss a birth because your phone died or was off and you didn’t notice. The result is the same – we’re all human, and we can offer extra postpartum support or a refund if we’re at fault, alongside our apologies.

How do you manage working as a doula and having a family?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

I schedule clients around my family. My family and loved ones come first.

Feven – Bermuda

I manage my client load depending what is happening in our family. My spouse has a more flexible role at work and is able to pick up the load during my busy season.

Adele – South Korea

When my kids were small I relied on a strong support system that included my husband who took over my parenting duties and several friends who could help carpool or watch my kids.

Xenia – Greece

What’s important for me is scheduling my work around the times when I can physically be present to perform it. I mainly work around my family’s schedule, which means meeting with clients and holding support groups in the day when my children are in school. When I need to visit clients in the evening or on weekends (which is rare), my husband is with our children and manages their activities and other household tasks.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

A lot of cooperation and communication! My partner and I have created a lot of different plans for childcare for the times I get called to a birth or when I have meetings with clients. This has sometimes meant finding help from other family or friends as well.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

Very carefully! You need to make an intentional decision to be present with your family during family time and the best way to do that is to have set boundaries around when you will respond to calls, text, and emails from your clients. Having set hours where you’ll respond to a call when you receive it, or a text within 1/2 an hour, or an email within two hours is important so your clients know when to reach you for things other than “Baby is coming!” If we are clear with our clients about our boundaries and expectations of how they will interact with our boundaries, we can be successful in our business and present in our home life.

Can you work part-time as a doula and have another job as well?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

You can work as a doula and have another career. Your capacity for managing the requirements of both jobs is a factor, how do you structure your practice and your support system, and what number of clients do you anticipate accepting on a yearly basis?

Feven – Bermuda

Yes-I did this for 11 years before transitioning into full time birth work

Adele – South Korea

Yes, I am a practicing massage therapist who worked a full time schedule until the Pandemic. Now I work part-time in massage and part-time as a birth professional.

Xenia – Greece

Yes. I am currently also working as a freelancer with a research agency and facilitate focus groups a couple of times a week.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

I really do think you can, but just like working as a doula while having a family, it takes a lot of cooperation and communication. You would definitely need to communicate clearly with your other job to make sure that everyone is on the same page and comfortable with the schedule.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

Honestly, you should expect to for the first couple of years! It takes time to build and scale a business – especially if you want it to be your full-time source of income. It’s important to have a good relationship and contract with backup doulas as well as transparency with your clients and other employer (where possible) about what your commitment is to them.

How many times do you see a client when you’re working with them?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Initial interview, at least three prenatal, the birth, and at least 2/3 postpartum visits. I usually go over this in visits.

Feven – Bermuda

5 times- 3 prenatal and to postnatal

Adele – South Korea

At least twice before the birth, then in labor, then at least once afterwards.

Xenia – Greece

The frequency at which I will see a client depends on what they have come to me for. If I am supporting a client in my role as a lactation counselor, I may see them once or twice before their baby’s arrival (or not at all if they call me for the first time once they are facing challenges) and two or three times postpartum. I am working with a family as a postpartum doula, we may agree that I visit them for three or four mornings a week (2 to 3 hours each morning) for 6 to 8 weeks.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

My base birth package includes two prenatal meetings, the birth, and two postpartum meetings.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

I work with clients who have experienced previous losses or fertility struggles so I will often meet with clients around 6-15 times prenatally and 5-10 times postpartum. When I’m working with an average client, I typically meet 2-3 times prenatally and 1-2 times postpartum.

Is the job as good as it looks?

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

It is as necessary and valuable as it seems.

Feven – Bermuda

It can be and the challenging bits are valuable opportunities for learning:-)

Adele – South Korea

Yes!

Xenia – Greece

It is an incredibly rewarding job, with highs and lows and an endless opportunity to learn as we connect with and support people in what is the most transformational time of their lives.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

Most of the time, absolutely! Sometimes, definitely not. Isn’t that true of any job though? Being a doula has it ups and downs for sure, but the ups have always outweighed the downs for me.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

It’s so easy to look at this work with rose-tinted glasses and see all the sweet babies and want to snuggle them but it is so much more than that. I rarely hold or cuddle my clients’ babies but being able to watch a family grow in love, trust, and support for each other through their pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond is completely unmatched for “perks from a job” … you won’t find that kind of rush anywhere else.

How do I know if this is the right job for me?

Exie – Michigan, USA

The feeling you get after attending a birth. Knowing you made a difference in this family’s experience, no matter how much your back and feet hurt!

Tintawi – New Mexico, USA

Ask yourself some deeper questions. Why are you considering this path? What do you hope to gain and share from doing this work? Is it profitable (if that is a concern)? Will I be able to make a difference in the lives of women and birthing people?

Feven – Bermuda

You will want to do it again and again, you will feel emotionally and intellectually invested.

Adele – South Korea

If you can work out the logistics for a good work/life balance and you love this season of life, it very well could be. It may take 1-5 births to really know if this is a good fit as far as the physical and emotional demands go.

Xenia – Greece

My simple answer to this question is ‘by trying’, perhaps because I believe in taking chances and in the opportunities which arise when we try something new. I also believe that ‘what is right’ for one person will depend on so many factors including the stage we are in, the lifestyle we yearn for, the desire we have to connect and help others, and how much of ourselves we are willing to put out there at a given time.

Carmen – Michigan, USA

A lot of honest reflection! This is no different than any career and that means really looking at what you want to do with your life.

Johanna – Ontario, Canada

You won’t know for sure until you try it but if you get excited about helping people, learning new things about communication, relationships, and physiology, and you really thrive when working with other people, that’s a great foundation to start with! The best thing about this work is you can make it into whatever excites you about birth and parenting.