birth and the nct (cont)

since yesterday’s post, I’ve been trying to find some positive thoughts or comments about the nct. sadly, almost all I can find are comments that reinforce my opinion that something needs to be done about the way we view birth, and has done little to suggest to me that the nct is not a big part of the problem.

“To say the NCT are against sections isn’t true either. The NCT teachers job is to give the facts and it is then up to the participants to make an informed choice. People forget that they have to take responsibility for their actions and desicions, and then find it easier to blame others (eg NCT) if their birth goes awry, rather than take into consideration the circumstances, and the actions of the HCP’s etc.”  [Iliketomoveitmove via Mumsnet discussion] {emphasis my own}

“You can only feel stigmatized if you let others make you feel that way!” [queenofthepirates via Mumsnet discussion]

“I think that it very much depends on the course teacher and what exactly is wrong with promoting natural birth and BFing anyway? You don’t HAVE to BF or have a natural birth but personally speaking I would prefer to.” [Blue81 via Mumsnet Discussion]

“I think we should argue for women to have the right to choose how and when to have children, how to give birth, how to feed them – those decisions shouldn’t be made just by healthcare providers (public or private!). Don’t get me started on baby feeding issues. I think that’s what the NCT intended to do when it was set up.” [Elkiedee via Mumsnet discussion] {emphasis my own}

Amongst the other positive reviews the most frequently mentioned praise is that the course taught them to change a nappy and that they made a good group of friends. Two important things I totally agree, but if those are the best that a national parenting charity can provide to parents-to-be paying almost £300 for an antenatal course, I would suggest that there are failures somewhere. Further praise includes the timings of the sessions and the social aspect.

Obviously, occasional good teaching does seem to be described. One tells of a group of 6 students of whom 4 had sections, 1 assisted delivery and 1 delivery including an epidural. Her comment though positive ends “none of us were made to feel in any way like failures”. [CaseyShraeger via Mumsnet discussion] Still the word ‘failure’ being used though, even in the positive review. The majority of the positive reviews though (and I admit I haven’t carried out a statistical analysis but this was my overriding impression even when directly looking for praise of the nct) were from those didn’t have an assisted or section birth.

If the best that can be said for a national charity aiming to support parents (and in part doing that by running antenatal classes) that those who had a positive experience either only went for the social aspect or whose expectations or reality was a birth that matched the textbook straightforward delivery, that, to my mind, is a very sad reflection on that charity.



  1. Alex January 14, 2013 / 10:41 am

    You say you couldn’t find any positive thoughts about the NCT but if you read the full blog post I wrote about this (the large quote in red is from it) you’ll see it begins with a lengthy description of everything that was covered in the NCT classes I went to. And it was everything. With no judgement. 160,000 people a year attend NCT classes so the vast majority of people are happy with them (interestingly most of the NCT’s most vociferous critics – like Kirstie and yourself – did not actually do NCT classes).

    As you’ve said in your previous post, the NHS classes are often worse (if they are available at all – the NHS most recent review of maternity services found that 42% had no access to them at all). Yes the NCT is a large charity, but no-one has a greater responsibility for antenatal preparation than the NHS yet they are barely being mentioned in all the coverage Kirstie has garnered.

    • thelittlepip
      January 14, 2013 / 11:00 am

      Hi Alex, thanks for your comment.

      Actually, I didn’t say I couldn’t find any positive comments, just that I couldn’t find any positive comments that changed my mind that there was a problem in how birth is viewed and talked about and approached.

      I linked to your thoughts as whilst being a positive review, your main praise appeared to be the social aspect. (“We, as expectant parents, don’t really go for the information”) and whilst I don’t doubt that this is the reason a lot of couples choose the nct, I wish that it was a pleasing by product of an antenatal course rather than the main appeal.

  2. patricia | unfounddoor January 24, 2013 / 10:03 am

    “160,000 people a year attend NCT classes so the vast majority of people are happy with them ” –

    just a small quibble with this – the vast majority of people taking NCT classes are, I think, first time parents-to-be. There’s not really any repeat business
    (although of course word of mouth recommendations from previous parents likely have an effect, the NCT is effectively the market leader, like heinz ketchup)
    I’m not saying the NCT is necessarily bad, just that the fact that lots of people go (once) doesn’t mean necessarily that those who went were happy with it.

    • thelittlepip
      January 24, 2013 / 6:23 pm

      Absolutely. You cannot draw such conclusions because those 2 things are not tied together or even related. An ‘and’ ‘and’ situation is not the same as an ‘and’ ‘therefore’.

      Everyone I have spoken to personally about the nct (and I talk a lot to lots of mums, albeit in a small area) says that the social aspect was good but that they wouldn’t do it for the teaching. Not one person has said they would do it again.

  3. patricia | unfounddoor January 24, 2013 / 10:25 am

    We did NCT classes and, as others have said, I didn’t really learn anything but found it a really useful way to meet a group of other new parents in our area (we were the first of our friends to have a baby and really didn’t know any other parents of babies in central London). The parents I asked about it when I was pregnant recommended it on pretty much the same basis. I didn’t know much about what I was doing, and NCT just seemed to be “what you do”.

    So, I wasn’t particularly unhappy with them, and don’t have any axe to grind – although I do think £300 is pretty steep for six hours reiterating what most people would know about childbirth having done a bit of pre-reading. And I imagine one would get the hang of changing a nappy pretty quickly even without training (actually, we weren’t doing it right for four days after birth until a doctor showed us how to fold in the waistband so that the newborn nappies weren’t hanging off him).

    BUT, I do think that they form part of an environment that encourages mothers to feel guilty or inadequate if their birthing experience doesn’t match that advocated as “straightforward” “if you choose it”. The same is true of their advocacy of breastfeeding – I am a big supporter of breastfeeding, but I found that this usually goes hand in hand with disparaging anyone who bottle feeds (which, don’t get me started here.)

    I felt horribly guilty after having an epidural (after 24 hours of active labour I was freaking the fuck out and I do feel it was the right decision for me in that moment) followed by serious post-partum haemorrhage (which I guessed was like my fault? because the epidural slowed down my contractions and, since my waters had broken and I was Strep B positive, necessitated pitocin? Seriously, I can’t believe I was blaming myself for losing so much blood. Lame) – which then impacted my ability to produce milk (which led to a long battle with pumping and combination feeding, which – totally off topic – actually led to a very happy compromise with nursing lasting 13 months until I started medication that required me to stop). But for me, the NCT was only a *part* of that, and not really a particularly important part – far more influential was all the internet reading I did that made me feel a failure for denying my baby the best start in life.

    I’m not sure whether or how much these feelings were caused by, or fed-into how low I felt those first few weeks.

    Although my NCT group was, I think by virtue of our location in an area that has a lot of overseas people living there for a couple of years at a time, quite mixed: a selective C-section, a breach C-section, a natural birth centre birth, an emergency C-section and a couple of hospital epidurals both private and NHS. And the Australian, German and Danish couples were quite confident in their choices – including those who did not want an unmedicated birth – which I guess set the tone of the room.

    • thelittlepip
      January 24, 2013 / 6:19 pm

      I’m glad you had a mostly positive experience & meeting people is definitely a good by-product. I just wish the NcT would be more upfront about what people actually get out of the course/their angles and aims. I was just talking to a mum I met today about the nct and she said that her birth was straightforward (water birth, no painkillers) but that the group leader wouldn’t discuss c sections so she would have had no idea what to expect had her birth varied. She is supposedly one of the 95% the nct talk about, yet she says she is the only mum she has talked to with that birth experience.

  4. patricia | unfounddoor January 24, 2013 / 10:29 am

    (sorry, off topic and nobody cares, but I hate to leave the impressoin that somehow I “conquered” my inability to produce sufficient milk (as that was the sort of thing that made me feel inadquate when I was struggling) – to clarify, we combination fed BM and formula from 3 weeks until G started solids, we then weaned off formula and kept up nursing AM and PM, more for comfort than nutrition.)

    • thelittlepip
      January 24, 2013 / 6:25 pm

      I care. And I didn’t think you meant you’d somehow magically made yourself able to do it.

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