Avoiding burnout as a Birth Professional

At one point or another everyone is at risk of burnout. Those that work in a high stress or high demand job are at highest risk and let’s face it: birth professionals fall into that category. Birth is unpredictable, highly emotional and can be long and complicated. It is normal for birth professionals to have periods of time when they question the work they do, the value of their services or feel like they are stretched too thin. For some, a different path or line of work is a better choice, but for many, burnout can be minimized or avoided with some of the following adjustments.  

A network of support

You will feel so much better if you can vent, talk about a difficult experience or get advice from other birth professionals. A little venting goes a long way. Be sure to listen when your fellow colleagues need that support as well, and share your positive stories too!

A more equal exchange of value

A long, difficult birth or difficult clients where you only profit a small amount after expenses is not an equal exchange of energy/value. What profit amount would feel more equal and make these difficult situations less draining? Would earning more (or bartering for more services) help balance out the tremendous amount of time, energy and heart that you put into your job? 

Time to process, let go of or heal from a difficult situation

Sometime a birth professional needs to take some time away from their work to heal, soul search or even seek counseling. You will likely return to the services you offer with a better attitude and perspective. For some this may only be a week or two; for others it may be months or years. 

Only bite off what you can chew

It is important to recognize your limits and say “no” occasionally. Yes, it would be ideal if every woman who wants a doula could have one at no or low cost, but it is not possible for you to be the one to do it all, nor is it going to benefit the women who hire you if you are burnt out, exhausted or disillusioned. Decide on the number of clients per month that work best for your situation (maybe 25 per month or maybe one every 2 or 3 months) and then stick with your limit. And be sure that there is an even exchange of value for most of the clients that you take on. 

Manage your time efficiently

When possible, carve out work time that is strictly for your birth services and then use the rest of your time for your other responsibilities (spouse, children, other work, etc.). Schedule classes, appointments, or phone calls for this time. Only return clients emails/texts/calls during this time. Your clients won’t mind if you reply to them with recommendations for pediatricians in the morning instead of at 11 pm when they send you their request. Setting up time management boundaries will have you feeling less stretched and more focused on your family or other responsibilities (rather than constantly feeling like you “work, work, work”). 

Resources at your fingertips

Make and keep an updated list of resources for common topics you encounter with clients and a list of contact information for professionals you recommend. Plumtree Baby has online resources with links to our references. Having resources at your fingertips will save you a lot of time searching for the same information over and over again. 

Stay organized

There are some easy ways to manage client information and paperwork. Find an online tool for client management that is easy to use and helps keep track of your schedule, manage clients, accept payments, etc. If you are keeping medical records, be sure to use a HIPPA compliant app. Spend time updating your records each week during your designated work hours. 

We hope this article helps you realize you are not alone and this happens to everyone at some point or another. You can avoid future burn out or get through it if you are in the thick of it now, and become an even better birth professional.


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Plumtree Baby, LLC

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