At the International Doula Institute, we strive to ensure our students are fully equipped to work as doulas. This often means basic business understanding. A big part of birth work is having an adequate doula contract.
Please know that as an international organization we cannot provide legal advice. However, we can offer general information about what many doulas find important to have in a doula contract. Before utilizing any contract, it is important to check with your local and federal business laws and regulations as they can vary greatly.
Aside from legal business topics, these are important components of a doula contract:
A Doula Contract Has a Clear Scope of Practice
As a birth or postpartum doula, writing out your scope of practice very clearly is important. This ensures your clients are aware of what you do and do not offer. It ensures that should anyone be unhappy with services, an emergency occurs, etc., you can clearly point to your contract and show what you offer.
It is also important that in the event of any medical emergency, staff, first responders, etc., know that you do not and did not provide any medical care. Even if you are otherwise licensed, when you are hired as a doula it is vital you stay within your doula scope of practice.
When clients are aware of your scope, this helps them have realistic expectations of your support and services. If a client hires you for postpartum support and they expect you to check their c-section wound, they could be disappointed in your services. However, if they are aware that is not within your scope and they do not expect any medical care, they are less likely to be unsatisfied with your support.
Be Clear About When You Are On-Call or Scheduled
Pregnancy and birth can be quite unpredictable. We know that most pregnancies last between 37-42 weeks gestation. Some doulas go on-call at 37 while others go on-call at 38. Whenever you choose to be on call, it is important that it is clearly written in your contract.
For postpartum work, it is important you write in your contract when you go on-call to begin shifts. It is also important to note how much notice they should provide. For example, “Please contact us within 24 hours of giving birth.”
A Doula Contract Should Clearly State Financial Agreements
It is imperative that all financial agreements be made in writing. Your full birth doula fee and what it covers as well as when payment is expected. Some examples include:
- The full birth doula fee includes two prenatal visits, arrival in active labor, and staying until 1-2 hours postpartum, and one postpartum visit.
- $X is due when signing this contract and is a non-refundable retainer which holds your spot on our on-call calendar.
- The remaining $X is due by 36 weeks, and we do not go on-call without full payment.
These are just a few examples of things which should be included. This does not represent a full contract nor language that is guaranteed legal in your country.
For postpartum contracts, it is important to clarify if you have a non-refundable retainer or if you are selling a package of hours in full. A clear agreed upon hourly rate as well as when payments are due is also important.
Know The Importance of Language
The choice of words matters when it comes to a doula contract. For example, in some areas it is not possible to truly enforce a non-refundable deposit. However, a non-refundable retainer can be enforced.
These little nuances are why it can be important to work with a lawyer or use an already vetted doula contract available for purchase.
Remember, this article cannot provide legal advice. These are simply topics doulas find useful in their contracts. As we are an international organization, we cannot possibly account for all the variations in business law to be able to provide any specific legal advice.
As you take clients, be sure to review your contracts to ensure they cover topics specific to doulas.