Doulas have been around for years, and they are emerging as the ultimate birth helpers for women in labor. Even if mom has a supportive partner to help her through labor, doulas are still often used because they know the ins and outs of advocating for mom's needs. Plus, they can give mom's birth partner a break if labor lasts a while.
Largely, doulas are known for being underpaid saints who are there for birthing women in their time of need. Though many doulas charge a small fee for their services, some work for free, and mom usually doesn't worry about paying her doula because the price is often whatever mom can afford.
Doulas do their work because they are passionate about putting birth back in mom's hands and helping her navigate an intervention-laced system that often makes mom feel out of control of her own birth.
However, up-and-coming doula agencies are changing what it means to be a doula. Precisely what they are changing is the cost. Luxury doulas on the scene charge moms a pretty penny for their services and add on extra charges if births go long. While they still want to help expectant women accomplish the birth they want, they also want to be able to support their own families and receive compensation for their time.
The luxury doula trend is splitting the natural birthing world in two, with many seeing why it's necessary and others seeing it as a betrayal to the calling. The facts are out there for everyone to make their own choice.
15 Luxury Doulas Aren't "Garden Variety" Doulas
Historically, doulas have offered their services for any woman who wanted them. Believing the best choice was for a mother to have a choice in her labor, they took on working for very little money just to know they were making a change in the normal business of birth.
This meant women who couldn't pay the minimal fee, which usually wasn't over $500, were offered free services, and women who paid the fee were offered doulas for the entirety of their births and in the hours right after. That meant doulas might spend hours away from their own families and homes to make around minimum wage depending on how long the birth lasted.
That was the norm, and many doulas feel it should still be. Luxury doulas are demanding compensation, and the doulas who are against the luxury movement don't agree with this mindset.
14 Luxury Doulas Are Making Millions
To be more accurate, companies who train luxury doulas are making millions, and the doulas themselves are making a wage that is much higher than if they worked for the regular rate, which can be anything from free to usually less than $500.
Companies like ProDoula train their luxury doulas and then have them charge over $1000 for a typical birth, adding on extra fees for complications or super long labors. Placental encapsulation is extra, and there are other options mom can purchase, but everything comes with a price.
By turning the doula business into a luxury consumer item, companies who offer the services are able to bring in the cash, but they are only able to serve clients who can pay their prices. This means cutting many women out of the luxury doula experience and making it a more elite option for chosen clients.
13 Luxury Doulas Aren't Regulated
Anyone can be a doula. There is no regulation in this field, unlike in other medical professions. Since being a doula just means being a helper to a woman during and after her birth, the position does not require special credentials. This is true even if mom hires a luxury doula.
There are certification programs that doulas can complete to show they have had some level of training. Luxury doula companies usually offer certification to make sure the doulas they are sending out to ask for thousands of dollars per birth know exactly what they are supposed to do to earn that money.
This is one reason it's important for a mom to know her doula and understand her style before she hires her to assist during birth. Just because a woman is a luxury doula and charges more does not mean mom will be receiving better service. It's important for mom to figure out which doula helps her the most when she is stressed so she can make sure her doula's style is the best possible fit for her.
12 Luxury Doulas Still Feel A Calling To This Occupation
Just because they make money doesn't mean luxury doulas don't feel called to their occupation. Though they've frequently been accused of being greedy women who take advantage of women's fears about birth, many say they are just as invested in moms as any other doula. They just don't want to work for nothing.
Since being a doula can be a physically and emotionally taxing job and work hours are unpredictable, it's best if a woman feels called to the position. It's necessary to have a certain amount of empathy but to also be able to be firm with medical staff who may try to trample on mom's wishes for her birth.
Doulas often say they do feel equipped and pulled into the field by their skills and desires, but some are tired of leaving their own families to help other moms and babies and coming home with very little income to show for it. They aren't in the doula business for the money, but they wouldn't mind making some, and that's where the luxury doula trend comes in.
11 Luxury Doulas Don't Want To Burn Out
Many luxury doulas report being ready to quit offering doula services at some point before they took the luxury route. The unpredictable hours, low pay, and demands of the job were causing them to lose their focus, and the fact that the small amount of money they brought in didn't contribute much to their financial situation didn't help. No matter how strong their passion, they were ready to quit.
Luxury doulas who stumble into working for luxury doula companies claim to regain their passion when they realize they can make a living doing what they love. They want to stay in the business to help mom but also to help themselves.
Critics of the luxury doula movement point out that helping themselves means charging for services that are considered obvious courtesies by other doulas, such as checking in on mom in the days following birth and not charging overtime if the birth goes over 12 hours.
10 Luxury Doulas Are Not A Bunch Of Hippies
There's a preconceived notion of what a doula looks like or is like. Most people imagine the crunchy, granola hippy lady with a soft voice and some kind of vegan treat in her bag.
While it's possible for a luxury doula to be a crunchy type, mom should know going in that these women are business people. Even if they do wear flowing skirts and show some trademarks of the typical doula ideal, underneath they have their business suits on and are ready to close the deal.
Being a business person is not bad, but mom has to decide what she wants her doula to be motivated by. While it's true luxury doulas want to help moms, they will walk away if mom isn't able to pay the inflated costs for their services. Other doulas who are not of the luxury variety tend to offer their services at a rate that works for each mom to ensure women have support in the birthing room. Mom needs to choose what makes her the most comfortable.
9 Some Luxury Doula Clients Regret The Investment
Considering the hefty price tag that comes with hiring a luxury doula, women expect the investment to be more than worth it. They don't want to hire someone to do things they could do themselves or simply to stand there and collect their cash. Mom wants the money she pays to offer her the opportunity to focus only on her own needs during birth.
Some women feel they receive this luxury with a luxury doula. Others do not. They become frustrated when their doula seems to not have enough to do or isn't stepping in to save them from dealing with medical staff. If their labor is simple and the nurse is taking care of all mom's need without trying to force interventions, then the doula may be left with little to do.
While a dedicated doula will still be there to offer mom comfort and support, some doulas, including luxury ones, sometimes lean back and wait it out. In these situations, mom may wish she had saved the money, especially if she opted for a luxury doula, to spend when the baby arrived.
8 Luxury Doulas Can Help Keep The Birth Plan On Track
The primary purpose of a doula is to offer mom support during birth and make sure she doesn't have to deal with medical staff trying to force interventions on her that she doesn't desire. They help mom carry out her birth plan, and whether mom chooses a luxury doula or one who isn't affiliated with a luxury doula company, she can still expect them to serve the same purpose.
Doulas are known to be birth supporters, and mom should be able to rely on their services whether they pay a fortune for doula assistance or the lowest price possible. Though luxury doulas may receive more training, though they don't always, every doula's goal is the same: help mom get the birth she wants.
Doulas are showing up in labor rooms more and more these days, and that is part of the reason the luxury doula trend is possible.
7 Luxury Doulas Focus On More Than Just The Patient
While doulas are often seen as being completely patient focused, luxury doulas admit that they have other concerns. It's not that they aren't concerned about their patients. It's just that they also have concerns about their own needs.
ProDoula, a doula agency that is for-profit and certifies its doulas, admits that they are concerned about their doulas as much as the women the doulas serve. For them, keeping the doulas happy is essential, and they do that by making sure their doulas are paid well.
This approach to service isn't new. Many companies focus on keeping employees happy with the belief that happy employees will create happier customers through better service. For companies like ProDoula, it's essential that this works because unhappy customers will not refer other moms to a company where doula help comes with a hefty price tag.
6 Luxury Doulas Aren't Well Liked Among Other Doulas
Doulas who don't buy into the luxury doula attitude are understandably unhappy about luxury doulas being on the rise. Many fear the luxury trend will turn people away from doula services since they come attached to a hefty price tag. They also fear the entire attitude of the public about doula care will be tarnished by what they see as greedy entrepreneurs attempting to take advantage of women in need.
This has caused a riff in the doula world with each side prepared to argue their convictions. It can be confusing for outsiders to understand the strife when those in the doula field perform the same function, but for those on different sides of the fence, the reasons they take issue with the other side are real and personal. Only time will tell if the luxury doulas will last and prove they aren't damaging doulas roles in birth.
5 It's Believed That Luxury Doulas Are Working Against Research
If mom wants a doula to assist with her birth, research supports her decision. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology listed having a doula present at a birth as one of the best choices for mom and baby. Doulas improve birth outcomes, and women are less likely to end up with epidurals, inductions, or surgical births when a doula is present for the labor.
All of those interventions cost money, plus they put mom and baby at higher risk for complications. Even if mom goes into birth with a higher risk of a problematic outcome, having a doula lowers that risk.
With all the research on the side of doula support, many people are upset that luxury doulas are making it harder for moms to receive this type of assistance. Since birth is already expensive, many women can't afford the high price tag associated with hiring a luxury doula. Researchers and those in the natural birthing community worry that luxury doulas will discourage moms from seeking a doula at all, and that will lead to worse birth outcomes for all involved.
4 Luxury Doulas Can Cost The Same As A Mortgage Payment
When mom starts comparing what she could buy with the money she spent on her luxury doula, she may be surprised. Depending on where mom lives, she can make a mortgage payment for the same costs. Decorating the baby's nursery would be a breeze with the extra $1200 or so mom would save by avoiding the luxury route. She could also buy a very nice designer diaper bag or two, as well.
Of course having a doula at birth has proven benefits, but the question is should mom spring for luxury doula services over regular doula services? Though it's true luxury doulas are often associated with a company, such as ProDoula, that offers certification and a program each doula completes, that's doesn't guarantee the services will be any different or better. ProDoula luxury doulas also go through business training, something doesn't particularly benefit mom.
When deciding which doula to choose, remember how far money used to hire a luxury doula can go used other places and make the best decision based on individual needs and desires.
3 Luxury Doulas Don't See Their Services As A Right
Luxury doulas are clear where they stand on services: doulas are not a right. This may sound like an obvious statement since doulas only assisted at 6% of births in 2013, but the dominant school of thought in the doula community has been that every woman should have access to a doula if at all possible.
Since research supports how they positively affect birth, doulas do what they can to make sure they are easily accessible. They charge less, accept payment plans, or work for free.
Luxury doulas don't do this. They see their services as something not everyone can afford, and they don’t view that as their problem. For a luxury doula, making a living comes before waiving fees so someone else can experience their services for free. Luxury doulas see what they offer as a privilege for those who can pay.
2 Luxury Doulas Are Sales People
ProDoula is not shy about being a company built on sales. They have rules for engagement, and they dream of big lives for themselves, not working selflessly for every mom who asks. Based off the popular strategy of make up company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, these doulas know how to hit up clients and close the deal.
This is another reason luxury doula corporations are seen as evil by members of the birthing movement. Critics worry that not only are moms being discouraged from using a doula due to the price, but that even the luxury doulas who work for the companies may not be getting what they deserve.
The women at the top of the organization do well, but many worry about the women on the middle or lower rungs. Are they being paid the big bucks promised or is the company shaving too much off the top for themselves?
1 Luxury Doulas Still Believe They Empower Women
Not only do luxury doulas feel they offer moms a great birthing experience. They also believe they are empowering other doulas to live up to their full potential. By creating an environment where women can follow their passion to be a doula but also support their family, they see themselves as crusaders who are opening a whole new landscape for women who offer doula services.
Obviously, not everyone is going to agree with this assessment since there are questions about how the business model works with large luxury doula corporations. Plus, many people feel even the women who employ luxury doulas aren't being empowered, just overcharged.
The answer to who is right depends on which side of the issue a person finds themselves on. Interview doulas who work for ProDoulas and it is likely that stories will be told of women who previously almost quit being doulas before discovering they could actually bring in real income. Many find that alone to be empowering.
Sources: Mommyish, Buzzfeed, DONA, AmericanPregnancy