12 Hour Language

Posted on: December 2, 2015 | Doula, Doula Business

Would you work for 40 hours for the same rate of pay you would 12?

I wouldn’t either. In fact, no one should.

We should all be paid in direct proportion to how much we work.

The doula world is no exception to this rule. As women and men who care about families, we know that we must care for ourselves before we are capable of caring for others.

You know, the whole… put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else with theirs…

Ok, so how do we justify taking care of ourselves, when the work that we do is so intimate, important and “selfless?”

We start by setting boundaries.

As a doula the first step to being hired by a woman and/or her partner is an in person meeting. At that meeting there is an exchange of energy.

The doula and potential clients are visiting. The client is trying to imagine the doula helping them manage through labor and birth.

They are deciding if they like and trust the doula.

If all goes as planned, they decide to enter into a legal contract with the doula for labor/birth support.

The doula contract…

As part of the doula contract, the following must be included:

  • What exactly will the doula provide
  • What the client can expect from the doula
  • What the responsibilities of the client are


Are you ready?

  • Fees for doula services…

This is where the controversy starts.

There are two schools of thought on this and doulas on opposing sides of this debate, spend a great deal of time in online forums “discussing” it.

I will tell you about both.

Let’s go old school first.

Historically, it’s been a crap shoot.

Clients pay one price; a flat rate.

Usually somewhere between $300 and $1,200.

It covers:

  • Prenatal appointment(s)

  • Unlimited phone and email support

  • Having your doula on call for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from your 38th week of pregnancy to your 42nd week

  • The actual face to face labor support, for as long as the client likes

  • An in home, postpartum follow up visit

There are no legal boundaries surrounding when the doula will go to the client. The client can advise her (or him) to come to them whenever they like, though the doula may encourage the client to spend the early labor hours, without their company. Ultimately, It’s up to the client to decide when the doula comes. First contraction, 50th contraction, its up to the client.

I say it’s a “crap shoot” because if the doula charges $600 and the client delivers the baby in 10 hours, the hourly rate would be…

Well, let’s figure it out!

In home prenatal meeting              – 2 hours

On call period                                      – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4 weeks

Face to Face labor support             – 10 hours

Postpartum follow up visit             – 1 hour

So let’s imagine the contract price is $600. The pay for being on call is $350, leaving $250. That’s about $19.00 an hour for 13 hours of work with 10 hours of in person support.

BUT, if the client wants the doula with her for 22 hours of labor support, the on call pay is, as we said, $350, leaving $250.

The new hourly rate is $11.30.

26 hours? $9.60

See where I’m going here??

Ok, next problem with this.

Let’s say after 20 hours, the doula is exhausted and must leave to get some sleep. The doula has been on call so that’s $350 and was with the client for 20 hours, earning $12.50 an hour.

But now the doula must call in the back up doula who she/he has agreed to pay a flat rate of $250…..

This is simply not sustainable.

The doula must give the small amount of money earned to the back up doula, leaving themselves unpaid.

Running a business on a “crap shoot” has never been a viable business model and adding it to a business plan is simply laughable.

I have to ask myself why someone would be willing to work this hard with no guarantee of payment.

Additionally, I would ask that person…

If their partner went to work on a Monday morning and was gone for 40 hours, but only came home with a paycheck for 8, how would they feel?

The next pricing option is what has been referred to as…

The 12 Hour Language.

This is how it works.

Client pays a flat rate for up to 12 hours of face to face support and an additional hourly rate, beyond the 12 hours.

The flat rate is usually between $600 and $1,200.

The additional hourly rate is typically between $20 and $50.

It covers:

  • Prenatal appointment(s)

  • Unlimited phone and email support

  • Having the doula on call for 24 hours a day 7 days a week from the moment the contract is signed

  • 12 hours of actual face to face labor support with an hourly rate beyond that

  • An in home, postpartum follow up visit

Let’s imagine that the doula charges $600 as a flat rate for up to 12 hours and $20 per hour beyond that. The pay for being on call, as we said earlier is $350 leaving a balance of $250 to cover the 12 hours, making the hourly rate, $20.83.

Imagine the face to face labor support needed is 18 hours. The doula, of course, continues to provide support, and the client is billed at $20 an hour for the additional 6 hours, receiving an invoice for $120.

Total face to face labor support in this scenario is 18 hours, total fee paid is $720.

Let’s consider the case of a client’s labor requiring the presence of a doula for 40 hours. Additional fees in this case would be $560 for a total doula cost of $1,160.

The doula would likely need to call in a back-up doula after 18-20 hours. Being paid hourly, affords the doula the opportunity, to pay the back-up doula, without sacrificing her own income.

THAT is sustainable.

The intimate work that we do as doulas, can make conversations regarding payments and boundaries difficult. That difficulty must not prevent us from doing what is best for ourselves and our families.

Being apart from our loved ones who need us, without being properly compensated, creates frustration for our families. When our partners are frustrated with us being called to work, going to work becomes unendurable.

If we are to leave birth better than we found it, we need EVERY person who is passionate about birth to continue in this field.

12 hour language in a doula contract does not punish anyone for a long labor or put laboring women on a clock.

It simply creates sustainability for doulas.