This is such a common question and one that I think folks are encouraged to ask without knowing why or what information they're trying to get from it. Because my work spans the entire reproductive period, trying to answer this question gives misleading and inaccurate information about my experience and what it would be like to work with me. I don't keep a running tally of the births I've attended because they won't ever be YOUR birth, so I'd much rather focus on you and what your needs are. A doula is a support person, it's a job built on relationship - watching the moment of birth tells us little about how they may make you FEEL during the process. So much of the perinatal period revolves around hormones - a delicate balance of ensuring those who surround you make you feel seen, heard, supported, and safe. It's a feeling, not a number. As with much of birth and parenting you cannot predict when or how it will happen and that can be unnerving - so I encourage you to focus on the feels rather than the data. Choose the doula who makes you feel seen, heard, respected, and supported. If you really want or need a number I've been told the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42.
One of my first doula teachers and mentors told us in training 'you have always been a doula, now you have a name for it' - most people who pursue this career have always cared for others and been the person others turn to. You can see from how I got here it's no surprise I wound up here - I've always been this, but I found the title in 2018. I've officially been a doula since then and continue to expand my knowledge and skill in the reproductive health arena.
We live in a capitalist society and like everyone I want and deserve to be compensated for my time, labor, expertise, and knowledge. I also know that doula support has been relegated to the realm of privilege and luxury when it should be a basic right. I know what my time is worth AND I am forever on a quest to tear down systems that create inequality. So you won't see prices listed for my services. I have worked for premium wages and I have worked for trade and barter. What I offer my clients is based on the conversations we have to create a package that fits their needs, desires, and budget. Because I can work virtually as well as in person I can create support for a wide range of needs - so the question I will ask is what is your budget and what support do you want? Let's start the conversation there.
Ah, yes. Again the answer here is we live in a capitalist society. Each doula must decide for themselves how to price their services based on so many factors. This is my business and I make a living from it, so my fees must reflect that as well as compensate for my time, knowledge, skill, and what I've spent to learn and acquire these skills. So my fees will be different from someone who wishes to volunteer as a doula and will work for free or low cost. This is true for differing levels of every doula, our fees are what we can afford to do this work for and often don't reflect expertise or time in the field. In the greater Los Angeles area fees for birth support range from $1-$5K and for postpartum $35-$100 per hour. Cost depends on area, availability, and services offered. Again I recommend knowing what your budget is and then looking for folks who work within your budget.
Like most folks in this line of work, I have backups! One of the benefits of the network I've built is having a list of other birth workers who can fill in for me if I'm unavailable for any reason. If we are contracted with me you have the opportunity to meet the doula who is my backup at the time so that you know who will be available for you in my absence.
Short answer - YES! Long answer - I have no idea, do you feel that you need a doula? Do you want a doula? This is your experience so you get to decide how to go about it. Regardless of where or with what support you envision your birth happening a doula can be an invaluable source of comfort, support, information, and cheerleading. I can only think of one reason NOT to have a doula - you don't want one.
I absolutely can! However, this isn't a standard part of my birth offering. Because much of what I do is bespoke we can absolutely add in time (yes it will cost more) to cover all things childbirth ed. But I won't recommend it. I will most likely give you a referral to one of many other professionals I know - it's kind of a don't put all your eggs in one basket thing. I think you can benefit from having multiple perspectives and contacts that you can look to and go to for support and resources. I also think it's beneficial for you to get different perspectives, and I respect the hell out of the instructors I recommend and I have no doubt you'll be well prepared. I also know that I will be able to answer any questions you have and we can delve further into anything you learn and that's what I think is most beneficial for our time together - focusing on the parts that call to you specifically.
Nope! There's no right time to hire a doula. I personally have worked with folks for months leading up to their birth and then through the initial postpartum period, and I've worked with folks that sign a contract and call me the next day to say they're in labor. My job and what I can offer remains the same the only difference is the amount of time we have to do it in. You may find that the longer you wait the harder it is to find an available doula that you like and in your price range, but all things are possible.
I'm so glad you've found a provider that is supporting you and helping you achieve the birth you envision! If you haven't already, ask them to talk through with you what their support will look like when you go into labor. What you'll most likely find is that they show up at the very end, and all the hard work you'll be doing will be with you, yourself, and any partner(s) or support person you invite to be with you. Providers don't often give continuous support, they are the person who ensures you and your baby are healthy and laboring well, but they won't be the one to hold your hand, bring you a cold washcloth, or sit with you through each and every contraction. If you think you may benefit from continuity of care - someone who is with you through your entire pregnancy, your birth, and your initial postpartum period - someone you can ask questions, turn to for support, and someone who knows intimately what you want and don't want - then you may want to hire a doula.