Beautiful Birth on a Budget

I see a lot of concern from mothers who can not afford some of life's basic things, much less luxuries but desperately want to be prepared for a natural birth in a birthing climate that is decidedly not natural friendly. First- this is totally possible. As a teacher, I do think it is great to take a class, but here are some ideas depending on what you can afford.


I of course am biased toward Birth Boot Camp natural birth classes (they even have online birth classes available that are wonderful). They tend to run around $300 so if you can afford them, I think that a class might be your best investment. I also have to say that educating yourself AND your partner are incredibly important to your success. If money is tight, here are some options:

~Some teachers will let you make payments or will do classes for trade, or even do a shorter, less expensive, intensive class.

~READ like crazy. Many people take classes and do nothing else. They don't touch the reading list or practice at home. If you can't take a class you can buy or borrow books from the library. And- do the practice relaxation, exercises, and healthy eating recommended in the books. Here is a list of my favorites:
  • Heart and Hands by Elizabeth Davis
  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
  • The Birth Book by Dr Sears
  • The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
  • Birthing From Within by Pam England
  • The Baby Book by Dr Sears
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
~Birth stories are a fantastic resource too for the mama preparing and they are free. I think that is one of the reason why so many women claim that Ina May's books help them so much, because the wealth of different birth stories make women realize how all women labor differently and have a variety of experiences. This blog has a TON of fantastic positive birth stories- take advantage of them! (I know, that is my blog- hehe!)


Doulas are not for everybody, but they can be a fantastic resource and statistically, they lower medication rates. Doula fees range widely from one area to another. Some options might include:

~Trade or payments

~Finding a new or preparing doula- they have to do a number of births to get certified and may charge less for those (or maybe they only charge for gas or childcare.) Here is the website for Dona International, a doula certifying group.

~Just have a friend or family member who has birthed naturally and whom you trust support you in your birth. Part of the help is simple woman to woman knowledge and support and presence.

~For mamas who have a partner deployed in the military, there is a group, Operation Special Delivery, that offers doula support for those mamas. You can find them here.

~Home Birth~

If you want a home birth but have no insurance, you may still be able to find a support person.

~Some midwives do trade or reduced fees for cash payment.

~New midwives (apprentice) often charge less and still work with a experienced midwife.

~Free birth~ Some women feel like this is the best option for them. It does take lots of preparation before hand, knowledge, and faith. Cost is very minimal. Although I don't think finances alone is a good reason to choose unassisted/freebirth. It is also a big responsibility for the couple.

~Hospital Birth~

Home birth is not necessary for an un-medicated birth! Going to a hospital by choice or need does not FORCE you to have a bad experience. Here are some tips for making yours go as you would like.

~Be well prepared and knowledgeable.

~Make a birth plan, and then talk to your care provider about it. Then, switch care providers if they are not on board. It is not a magic weapon, but it is a tool that can help you find out where they stand and it can create a dialogue.

~Go to the hospital later rather than sooner (if you feel comfortable with that). And, if you arrive and you are not in hard labor or showing signs of hard labor, don't be afraid to go home and labor where you feel more comfortable.

~Be kind but firm. A hospital can be a foreign and intimidating place. Be strong anyway. I have heard of women birthing beautifully in very anti-natural hospitals. I heard a doula talk about a mom (first time) who had to deliver in a hospital like that. She walked in, late in labor. She wanted to squat her baby out. She got on the edge of the bed and just did it. They told her to lay down. She just said no and squatted her baby out. I am not advocating rudeness or yelling. But don't forget whose birth this is. It is not THEIRS. It is yours. You do not have to be steam rolled by the system. This can be easier said than done, as being in labor it can be hard to advocate for yourself. That is where an educated partner and a doula can really come in handy so that you are not afraid and alone.

~Even if you are limited by insurance as to hospitals and care providers, you can usually still switch to one that is more natural friendly. It can be very difficult to change or buck hospital policy. So, find out what the policy's are. A hospital that still has everybody on an IV and delivering on their back and separated from baby after birth may be harder to navigate than one that allows more freedoms.  (I would choose a drive or switching providers rather than hoping for the best in a bad hospital any day.)

-Some things to look for-
-No IV required- Intermittent monitoring- - Freedom of movement- -Birth position up to mother- -Laboring moms allowed to eat- -In room baby care- -Breastfeeding support- -No routine episiotomies- -C-section rates- -Lenient policy on post-dates-

~Birth Center~

In some states birth centers exist and can be covered by insurance or medicaid while home birth is not. A birth center can be a great option for somebody who wants an out of hospital birth but can not afford to pay a few thousand dollars cash for a home birth.

You can find lists of birth centers here.

~Be Hopeful and Prepared~

In the end the best preparation is probably your own education and health and staying low risk. How you handle your labor and approach the situation will also have a direct impact on how you are treated. A confident, firm and calm mother will be treated differently than one who is screaming for drugs or will not stand up for herself. (Not that there is anything wrong with screaming in labor, but if you ask for pain medication, they would love to help you with that.)

A natural birth is perfectly possible in any number of settings no matter your financial situation.

(On a side note, remember that teachers, doulas and midwives have many expenses associated with their professions. So, if they are giving you free or discounted classes or services they may be losing money or making nothing. Just out of politeness, be thankful and do what you can to budget it in. Look at the things that you can go without to make this happen but be realistic. I will be forever grateful that I took the time and money to pay for my first natural birth class.)


Bea said…
You made such a great point! This is my first pregnancy and natural birth has always been so important to me. I had dreams of delivering at home but we just couldn't afford it. As it turns out our insurance covers a CNM, hospital and birthing center births. Most insurances will at least cover the CNM which can make a huge difference in your experience. The best thing you can do is ask as many questions as you can to see what resources are available.
Cherylyn said…
Thank you for this. It drives me crazy when someone says "I really would love to do X for this birth, but we can't afford it". I tell people that if it's important enough for them they will find a way to afford it. I've done it myself. Thank you again for covering this topic. I'll definitely be sharing it :)
Julie said…
You made some really great points, though I feel you downplayed the importance of a doula. I think it is hands down the most important thing to have for a hospital birth, and still pretty important for homebirth. Read The Doula book by Marshall Klaus and John Kennell.They present so many studies that show women are much less likely to get PPD, more likely to breastfeed, way more likely to have a natural birth(less csec,epi;s,pitocen,ect) and so much more...Also, we managed to pay for a homebirth while being a one income family, and a small one income at that lol. It is the birth of your child! I feel paying for a homebirth should be top priority if natural birth is what you want...
Mama Birth said…
Thanks for the comments! Since I have birthed at a hospital and a birth center for various reasons, including financial, I do really feel that sometimes there is no way to fit it in the budget. Also- some women just simply don't feel comfortable with it but still really want a natural birth.
Also a good point that sometimes insurance will cover a HB with a CNM-
I didn't mean to downplay doulas. I think they are great for some women, but they are not for everybody. Some people want as few people there as possible at their birth. I probably showed my bias as a teacher too- the vast majority of my students birth in hospitals without a doula. I encourage everybody in my classes though to really consider doula care.
Angela said…
Finding a new or preparing doula- they have to do a number of free births

This is 100% not true and in fact, most doula trainers and mentors encourage new doulas to charge *something.* Also, remember that not every doula who trains with DONA will choose to certify with them.

To reiterate, DONA does not require that a doula in training offer her services for free, nor does she have to offer a certain number for free. If a doula chooses to certify (she doesn't have to) she needs to do 3 births (there are criteria for counting those births toward cert).

Hope that clears up any confusion.
Anonymous said…
Finding a new or preparing doula- they have to do a number of free births

This is 100% not true and in fact, most doula trainers and mentors encourage new doulas to charge *something.* Also, remember that not every doula who trains with DONA will choose to certify with them.

To reiterate, DONA does not require that a doula in training offer her services for free, nor does she have to offer a certain number for free. If a doula chooses to certify (she doesn't have to) she needs to do 3 births (there are criteria for counting those births toward cert).

Hope that clears up any confusion.
Mama Birth said…
Angela/anon -
certainly no trying to be offensive or confusing with that one-
I have talked to many many doulas trying to certify who do their three births for free or just to cover their costs so that they can get them done, as it can be difficult to find those first clients. They felt like the experience was payment -
Some people are also less likely to pay a fee for somebody with less experience. People need experience, moms need help....
Of course you don't have to certify through Dona- I list them because they are one of the big groups with an online listing of potential doulas-
Anonymous said…
I understand what you're saying--but your comment implied that some institution had decided that "doulas have do do free births" or something to that effect. If a doula decides on her own that's the path she wants to take, that is of course fine, but the free birth rule is not mandated. In our city no one that I know of is working for free, new or not.

I wasn't offended...I just don't want parents getting the wrong idea and assuming that they can get a doula for free.
Unknown said…
You and your blog is a tremendous resource for people, mothers in particular. Keep up the great work and the great flow of information. Thanks so much for what you do.
Jennifer Bowers said…
We were very low on funds during my first pregnancy. I found so many great natural birth books at the local library and community college library. I read them all for free :-) Between the books and internet groups I got my own free childbirth class. The hospitals in my town are both very medical and I didn't feel like fighting them so I stayed home and had an unassisted homebirth, almost free, other than minimal supplies. A great natural birth is totally possible on a low budget, the woman just has to be self-motivated.