Tuesday, 31 July 2012

What is a doula?

Since I've been pregnant and telling people I am having a doula this time round I've been asked time and time again what one is, especially by Cypriots who have mostly never heard of them.  I decided the best person to explain is the lovely lady herself so I invited her to explain, and share her story of how she decided to become one.....

My name is Claire, I’m a mother of 2 and a Doula… "A what???" Yes I get that all the time, A doula supports a woman and her partner during pregnancy, birth, and the early weeks of parenting, with reassurance, practical assistance, and information.

A doula is someone you come to know well by the time of your birth, and who is there during your labor, by your side, focused solely on you and your partner. She can encourage you, remain objective, and help your partner feel more confident about how to support you. She can also assist you with practical knowledge on comfort measures for labor, such as massage and suggestions for positioning. A doula can provide information when you have questions, and can help you communicate most effectively with your medical caregivers.

The main focus of a doula's role is often on the birth itself, but doula support can also be invaluable during pregnancy (especially if you face questions about tests or complications), and after the birth when she can help out with feeding and adjusting to life with a newborn. There are a few things a doula is not, She is not acting as a nurse or midwife, so she does not provide clinical care such as doing examinations on you or checking your baby's heartbeat. The support a doula provides fits together with, but does not replace, the care of your doctor, midwife, or nurses.

Doulas do not make decisions for you, or speak for you. This is your birth, your baby, your life! A doula supports you by providing information and explanations you may want about your choices, but it's always you who decides what's best for you.

Doulas make a difference! The research has shown that having a doula at your birth can make a real difference to the outcome. The risk of an emergency caesarean is reduced, as well as the chances of other interventions happening like episiotomy and assisted delivery. How a mother interacts with her baby, her satisfaction with her birth and her relationship with her partner are all rated significantly higher with women who have had a doula compared to those who have not!

Doula, birth, pregnancy, Cyprus
As well as the doula service I will also be hosting island wide workshops on birthing and weekly prenatal classes by the end of 2012. Being a doula is a calling not a career. I didn’t choose it, rather it choose me. Here's how it all began,

I first started walking this path in 2009. We were trying for our 2nd child and faced fertility problems. During this period I become obsessed with the female reproductive system, as most women do when trying to conceive for a long time. Fear begins to sweep over you and you start processing the fact that perhaps you wont conceive another child. I hold a great deal of empathy for women who are trying to conceive it is a subject very close to my heart.

Without having experienced such a situation you will never understand how heavy a women’s heart can become when faced with infertility, it is a soul wrenching process. I was extremely fortunate and managed to fall pregnant at the end of 2010. This experience taught me valuable lessons and gave me a whole new appreciation for ‘life’ .

Birth really is a miracle. It should not be taken for granted and should be cherished. Even though I had won my battles with infertility and was pregnant, I couldn’t let go of the passion I felt. I started learning everything there was to know regarding pregnancy and birth, little did I know I was tugging at the reins of my new found calling in life.

Whilst 7 months pregnant I convinced an extremely close friend of mine to let me be with her supporting her during labor (I was being a doula without even knowing it) The day she went in to labor I was hugely overcome by a need to comfort, assist and encourage. It was one of the most beautiful days of my life. I’ve never felt as much pride for another person as I felt for her on that day. She was a warrior and I was privileged enough to walk along side her as she did the most amazing thing her body was capable of doing.

After that day my mind was made up. I want to be involved in this field. I want to support other women. Not only is it my passion.. I am good at it and I believe in it. I delivered my 2nd child in July 2011 natural birth at a private clinic in Larnaca. Shortly after birthing Teresa I became inspired to follow this calling. My main ambition was to become a certified midwife and I was all set up to start University in 2013 but I never estimated how fast the doula service and workshops would grow. Its taken on an entity of its own and I am enjoying every second of being a doula. I will still enroll into the University for the bachelor in midwifery but now with far bigger aspirations and dreams than I once had.

I hope to one day open up (or at least be involved in) a midwife based and managed birthing centre. Regardless of whatever I do in the years to come I will always be a doula at heart, to me it is the missing link needed for all births. No matter what I do the doula side of me will always be involved. 

My Doula fee is between 260-360 Euros. I have a gap in-between the prices because I know during this time of crises my service can first seem like a luxuary rather than a necessity and I would rather a mother / family have a doula (and a fantastic birth) than not for the sake of finance. If someone is able to pay the full fee, wonderful if not all is negotiable. My full service fee includes:
  • 4 home visits during the pregnancy (To bond with the family, get to know the families requirements, create birth plans, explore birthing options and studies, learn breathing and relaxation techniques and find out all about the stages of labor and what to expect once the baby is born)
  • Full assistance from the start of labor till the end, regardless of the amount of hours, time of day or day of week
  • On call service in the last month for any support the family may need
  • 1 visit after the baby is born to help the family adjust to their new life and accommodate them in any way required including breastfeeding support and advice

I also offer separately postpartum doula services:
·        Household assistance for the family (errands / cleaning / child minding of baby)
·        Night time baby care (allowing the mother and father to enjoy a full 8 hours sleep while I monitor and tend to the newborns requirements, light housework will also be performed)

Ms. Claire Anne Mavris – Tel: 99890680 –  or email cyprusdoula@gmail.com/claireannemavris@hotmail.com   or find me on Facebook 

To see all the other stories and information on birth in Cyprus, click the badge above.
In response to several people who have pointed out the word 'Doula' is derogatory in Greek I looked up the origins of the word and how it came to be used in for a birth companion.....   the following is from Wikipedia

The term "doula" was first used in a 1973 anthropological study conducted by Dana Raphael. Raphael's derivation of the term is not clear, only describing it as coming from "Aristotle's time", and is defined as a Ancient Greek word δούλη meaning "female servant", though with unflattering connotations of slavery. Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula-attended births, adopted the term to refer to a person providing labor support.


  1. MidlifeSinglemum31 July 2012 at 22:40

    Doulas are very popular in Israel and two of my friends are doulas. Maybe because so many of us are immigrants without our mothers here? I didn't use one as I had an elective C-section but I can see the wisdom of having someone who knows what's what to be there with you, especially for your first child.

  2. Nice post! I have to admit that I only recently heard of 'doula', in Greek the terms comes with negative connotations as it means 'female slave', any idea why they use this label to describe such supportive role? Hope all goes well Emma!

  3. Hello,the word "doula" in Greek means " female slave" ( actually this is also the etymology of the word in English according to the Oxford English Dictionary)
    and it is used derogatorily by some Cypriots when thet refer to their cleaning ladies, staff, etc.


  4. Thank you, I've heard several people say that it's a negative word in Greek which is a shame! I've just looked it up....

    From Wikipedia -
    Raphael's derivation of the term is not clear, only describing it as coming from "Aristotle's time", and is defined as a Ancient Greek word δούλη meaning "female servant", though with unflattering connotations of slavery.[3] Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula-attended births, adopted the term to refer to a person providing labor support.[8]

  5. wasnt that the ancient greek human trafficking? i dont remember learning in school that being a doula was a choice.... :S they were bought didnt get paid, had to do all the hard work in the house and fields and they had to "confort" the partner of the pregnant woman as well...Anyway the word doula echoes bad in the greek ears...better sth like "maia" or "mami" no?

  6. I only recently discovered it was considered to be a bad word in Greek. It is now used all over the world since being adopted by the people who first started the trials of births using this type of support.

  7. The term "doula" was first used in a 1973 anthropological study conducted by Dana Raphael. Raphael's derivation of the term is not clear, only describing it as coming from "Aristotle's time", and is defined as a Ancient Greek word δούλη meaning "female servant", though with unflattering connotations of slavery. Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula-attended births, adopted the term to refer to a person providing labor support.


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