Can You Afford To NOT HIRE A Doula?

Recently I gathered some information regarding the costs of an intervention filled birth and received this, “my epidural was $1500 and when it turned c/s there was an additional $600 bill for the anesthesiologist who was present during surgery. between the c/s (which there were bills from 2 different surgeons on top of my $3000 maternity care), the pediatrician bill who was present during the surgery, the 48 hour after birth stay in the hospital, etc, etc, etc….it was about $10,000 in Montana in 2007. i remember looking at the hospital bill (from the stay, not including birth “meds”) and seeing over $200 of “drugs” on the bill…which included a few pain pills, some Colace, and i think a calcium supplement.”

And a midwife in another area sent me this, “Trying to find “proof” but asking my hospital MW and nurse friends around the country, the average vaginal birth looks to be about $10,000 – without an epidural and with a 2 day hospital stay. This does NOT include the doc’s fees. A cesarean seems to be about $18,000 or so, again, not including OB or anesthesiologist’s fees (another $2000-$5000 dollars). Epidurals look to be about $2000, not including the anesthesiologist’s fees. Hope this helps!”

$17,843 was the amount of the bill from one of my students who ended up with an induction- an epidural- a cesarean and a baby who ended up in the NICU for twelve hours since she was having trouble keeping her temperature up…I do not see on the bill that she sent me that this includes the obstetrician or the anesthesiologist either.

This made me think about how when economic times are difficult a few things happen…

Folks decide that childbirth education is optional. They decide they can not afford to do the preparation for their birth experience. Childbirth preparation is not an item I would consider optional unless you are fine with a birth full of interventions. You can not expect to show up for the Olympics to race purely because you were able to obtain a uniform. It take training to get the birth you desire. It takes preparation to know the questions to ask to determine if a procedure is the one you feel informed enough to make. If you do not prepare, be prepared to hand your birth over to the medical team to make the decisions for you. Now some of you may think that is not a bad option. Just remember if your birth turns out differently than you desired- you gave up any ability to shove the blame elsewhere- it is yours to acknowledge. Kinda like complaining about the government if you don’t vote.

Some folks decide that they do not need a doula after all. But the studies show that having a doula not only enhances the mom’s view of her birth experience- but the studies show having a doula
* results in shorter labors with fewer complications
* reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
* reduces the need for Pitocin (a labor-inducing drug),
* reduces the use of forceps or vacuum extraction
* reduces cesareans
* reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
* mothers who feel better about their birth experience and therefore have less postpartum depression

A study by Klaus and Kennel showed that using a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of Oxytocin (Pitocin) by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%.

So, how does this speak to your wallet during these times of trying to save money? Well due to insurance costs, many folks now have a deductible and then have to pay 20%- 30% of the final costs of their hospitalization. So keep in mind if the average birth in the metro area has an epidural- with the cost of an epidural being around $1500- then the cost to a couple could be $300 to $450. If a cesarean occurs the cost to a couple could be an additional $120 to $180 or more for anesthesiology alone. A complicated birth ending in a cesarean could be as much as $17,000 or more. There is an additional day stay in the hospital if not even two extra days. Now your cost could be $3400 – $5100 or more.

Now a doula can not promise you a natural, easy, non surgical birth- but certainly the studies show if that is what you desire- you have a greater chance of getting it if you hire a doula. Now the cost you saved by having a doula may have saved you a lot of money in comparison to her fee which is usually between $500 and $1000 in most areas. And you also can possibly be more assured that if you ended up with a cesarean you did what you could to avoid it by having a great support system in place.

So whether your insurance plan has a percentage you have to pay or not add the cost of a good childbirth class $250 and a doula for the cost of $600 for a doula- the total is $850 which is a far cry less than the upwards of $5000 you could pay for not having the preparation and support. A great class and a fabulous doula may not keep you out of the OR but again- these two things can certainly help do so!

Remember there are other pieces to the pie- care providers and choice of birth location play into this as well.

Keep in mind more and more insurance companies are trying to decrease costs- so some are actually reimbursing doula costs. Some even reimburse childbirth class costs. And I know that most any pretax plan often times does pay for both of these items. Often times if you ask the insurance plan if they cover doula services prior to having the baby, they will say no. But if you end up saving them money by leaving a day earlier- not having an epidural and such- they will consider paying for your doula. So, can you afford to not hire a doula?