I’ve been a doula for over 12 years, so I know the good and the bad. There’s plenty of reasons that the average work-span of a doula is about 2 years. It’s not easy to live your life on call, knowing that at any moment you could called away from your sleep, your children, your errands, your hobbies, your life! It’s not easy to stay awake for 36 hours, and see your flat-rate fee turn into several dollars an hour. It’s even harder to figure out last minute childcare options. It’s not easy to return home to children who want your attention, a house that needs to be cleaned, and shower that you desperately need to take, but all you want to do is sleep. I’ve missed my husband’s birthday party, our anniversary, my children’s sporting events and school performances, weddings and funerals. I’ve even gotten burnt out and taken time off. But I always return.
To me, being a doula is so much more than a way to bring in money, or a fascination with birth. I’m a doula because I think doula work makes a difference. When my paycheck is small and my sleep is nonexistent, I still know that what I’m doing has value. I’m a doula because once I was that mom walking the halls all night long, trying to get my labor to progress, and my doula was willing to put my needs ahead of her own. A selfless act that has impacted my life forever. I want to give that experience of being supported to all of my clients, and I want all women to have access to doula care.
It has never made sense to me that insurance companies don’t pay for doula services, as research clearly shows that doulas make births safer, shorter, and less expensive. ACOG even supports the use of doulas, stating that they are one of the best ways to avoid a cesarean. Many families simply cannot afford the extra expense of a doula, and even more families don’t know what doulas are or how they can improve births. Insurance reimbursement could change all of that. Reimbursement would make doula fees more affordable, giving thousands of women access to doula care. These women would then have safer births, leading to better physical and emotional outcomes for moms and babies, and lower medical bills. The monetary savings alone is a huge win for families and for insurance companies. (The only side losing money in this exchange would be hospitals, who have successfully exploited birth for decades, and made millions off of it. So I’m pretty ok with this “loss”.)
The infographic below is from Childbirth Connection, and it does an amazing job of showing the benefits of doula care, and the monetary savings doula care could provide. You can read the full report here. It shows how in just one year, over $2 BILLION dollars could be saved by implementing doula care into insurance benefits. Research on doulas is overwhelmingly positive, and it would be nothing but corrupt to continue allowing the cesarean rate in the US to remain at 33% when we can easily lower that rate by paying for doulas. This report shows that insurance providers pay over $9,600 in additional costs for a cesarean, when a doula typically costs less than $1,000. The math is easy, so the choice should be, as well.
THIS is why I doula. Because women deserve this type of support during their births. Support that lowers intervention rates and increases positive birthing experiences. Support that keeps birth affordable, so women don’t have to choose between what they need and what they can afford.