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Kirstie Allsopp and the NCT - what do you think?

(319 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Jan-13 11:10:43

Last week, journalist and MN blogger Linda Geddes accidentally ignited a heated debate when she appeared on the Today programme discussing NCT classes with a representative from the organisation. Fellow MN blogger Kirstie Allsopp - who's been critical of the NCT before - was listening in, and fired off this tweet:

"Turn to BBC Radio 4 for talk of a book about all the absurd myths surrounding pregnancy & birth. More NCT b****** as usual though. Lots of people have good NCT experiences, but many don't. This is a very politicised, dogmatic and in my experience, scary organisation."

As she's done previously, Kirstie argues that the NCT is so focused on natural birth that they are letting down women who don't want, or aren't able, to have one by failing to prepare them - with the result that mothers who have Caesareans (for e.g) can feel stigmatized. Here's her blog post - fellow MN bloggers In a Different Voice and When The Baby Sleeps have also posted on the subject.

What do you think - do you agree with Kirstie, and if not, why? Tell us if you blog about this - and if you don't have a blog (why not? wink) let us know what you think here on the thread.

pipsqueaky Fri 11-Jan-13 13:42:57

My experience of NCT was v positive due to having a really supportive teacher who also happened to be an MA at the local hospital and popped in to see us all after we had the babies and in my case when I was in hospital ante natally. We had a group of 6 and there were 2 CS, 2 natural and 2 assisted deliveries so a mixed bunch and we all felt prepared by our lessons, guess it is down to the indivual teacher though

I only joined NCT to meet people to hang out with while I was on maternity leave and 3 1/2 years later have a great group of friends so can't fault it at all.

Having had several MC's, I didn't dare contact NCT until I was 6 months pregnant ... when they told me all the classes were full locally. Perhaps better to book before TTC?

Shagmundfreud Fri 11-Jan-13 13:48:56

I'm amazed by how many of the people who believe that the NCT peddle a brand or errant shite arrive at this conclusion on the basis of NOT having attended an NCT course!

As far as I'm aware Kirsty Allsop isn't speaking from her personal experience of having attended an NCT course, but I'm willing to be put straight if this isn't the case.

I suspect that if someone attended an NCT session where they were told they 'shouldn't' use pain relief, or were told that all c/s and other interventions in birth were unnecessary, or that having an epidural would result in them needing a c/s (accusations levelled against NCT courses), and they could verify this (perhaps if other parents in the class would back them up), then the teacher in question would be hauled over the coals and made to retrain, because none of these views are supported by the NCT as an organisation.

On a personal note, I didn't do NCT classes - couldn't afford them. But I've been involved as a volunteer with my branch for a decade and know many, many parents who have done NCT courses locally. We have four local teachers, one of whom is a midwife as well. I've NEVER heard anyone complain about being made to feel terrible for having pain relief or needing a c/s.

HappyJoyful Fri 11-Jan-13 13:54:01

Only joined NCT for one purpose - to meet some people. I knew from other's that the 'ethos' and 'teachings' would be of little interest to me.

Teacher admitted she would not spend any time on either c-sections or bottle feeding. She was all about 'natural' non intervention childbirth and made no qualms about it - farted around for an entire session 'taking deep breath'.

Given I'd spent £190 she got my back up horrendously using out dated and dull information that could easily be learnt within the first chapter of any book on childbirth.

She was judgemental, un-funny and factually incorrect at times - it was very frustrating.

I ended up with an emergency c-section after a long labour having been induced. At the 'reunion' when she was asking everyone about their 'experience' she jumped on me immediately when I said I'd had a section and couldn't wait to suggest 'elective'?Ehh, no, just because I didn't buy into all your shite bollocks about it all been about breathing etc and was quite open that my birth plan would include drugs and I'd happily have an epidural if I thought I'd need it. Doesn't mean I was opting to have major surgery to get my baby out.. I couldn't believe the cheek of this woman - luckily I'm thick skinned and have absolutely no issues caused by her abililty to try to imply that one has failed if they have a section, but another woman could have been totally gutted. Cow.

My standard ante natal courses were million times more informative and interesting and I learnt tonnes more in half the time at no cost.

HappyJoyful Fri 11-Jan-13 13:57:43

Shagmundfreud, had to laugh, I do believe that our teacher was ditched by NCT after our course. Don't think anyone complained (I don't think her intentions were wrong, perhaps misguided and outdated) because it was actually pretty comical and we still joke about her / the lessons 2 years later.

PlaySchool Fri 11-Jan-13 13:58:55

There is no way I would have joined an NCT class. They appear to be very judgemental and with an axe to grind in respect of natural childbirth and breastfeeding.

PlaySchool Fri 11-Jan-13 14:00:57

I'm amazed by how many of the people who believe that the NCT peddle a brand or errant shite arrive at this conclusion on the basis of NOT having attended an NCT course!

Their ideas and philosophy are easily found on the internet!

ScrambledSmegs Fri 11-Jan-13 14:02:56

Based on my personal experience, I disagree strongly with Kirstie. My NCT teacher was very good. She tailored the course to us - one couple were going to have an Elective CS as the baby had a heart defect, and were expecting him to have an op very soon after birth. We therefore had quite a lot of information about c sections (elective, emergency and crash) and how c sections could be very positive experiences, and how to make them possibly more personal to you, as well as how caring and good the NICU departments of hospitals are. Also was honest about recovery times and what we could do to make life after birth easier if we'd had an emcs, and how to make an extended stay in hospital more comfortable.

The only problem was, she spent so much time discussing c-sections v natural birth, plus all other kinds of birth and pain relief, she completely skipped inductions. Which is what I had! I still think she was very good though. She got us to focus on the fact that we were having babies, and the type of birth we had was didn't really matter as long as our babies were healthy and loved. Oh, and the nappy changing exercise was very helpful, as I'd never done that before and was terrified.

The breastfeeding teacher though - we complained about her. Blinkered is not a strong enough word.

I think that clearly it varies (my own NCT teacher was excellent) but that since these instructors are speaking for the organisation they should make it clearer to the teachers the standards they expect. Particularly that they shouldn't make anyone feel bad / guilty (for heavens sake) if they do end up with a section.

That said, I was at a dinner party recently with one childless couple, the woman insisted she'd have an elective c-section. Her choice etc - but she seemed to think this meant she'd have a free pass on childbirth with no problems. It wasn't my place to make it clear to her it's major abdominal surgery and the choice wasn't without a down-side - but it would be the place of an ante-natal teacher. But I did wonder if a teacher did try to provide a balance, if s/he would be accused of "pushing" natural childbirth.

Gintonic Fri 11-Jan-13 14:06:10

My experience with NCT was very positive, I was very grateful for the info they gave on c sections as I ended up having emcs. They covered not just the practical/medical side of things but also the emotional side - eg the fact the partner has to leave the theatre if it is done under GA and feelings you may have afterwards - things that weren't covered in other stuff I read. I was much better prepared thanks to NCT.

queenofthepirates Fri 11-Jan-13 14:06:19

I loved my NCT classes however they do have an agenda which they actively push-and why not? They want to promote BF (yep, good idea but not for everyone obviously) so why should they sit on the fence to appease people?

You can only feel stigmatized if you let others make you feel that way!

I also went to NHS antenatal classes and they were a crock of hopelessness. Patchy, poorly delivered and aimless by a woman who kept answering her mobile phone (midwife of Loughton I'm looking at you). Thank goodness the NCT filled the gap.

PS, I had an EMCS and don't feel in the slightest bit guilty after three days in labour, I did rather marvellously.

HexGirl Fri 11-Jan-13 14:13:59

I do think it's a shame where people comment/ judge the NCT without actually giving it a try. I'm very disappointed if Kirstie is espousing her views on something of which she has no personal experience.

In the classes our teacher was very frank about all aspects of birth (having had experience of natural, EMCS and elective c-section birthes herself), answered all our questions honestly and never made us feel judged for anything in respect of the birth or our choices as to bf or otherwise. The classes were, I would say, evenly balanced between natural birth and techniques to cope with early labour but also covered pain relief options, induction, intervention and EMCS all in a factual way without any feeling that you were a failure if this happened or that it was the wrong choice to make for you and your baby. There was a lot of humour thrown in for good measure as well!

For me it was a lifeline. I wanted a natural childbirth but circumstances led to me having an EMCS. I struggled massively with bf DS and eventually combined fed. I was also eventually diagnosed with PND. I never felt judged for any of it nor did I feel excluded. In fact, I had great support from the others in the group and my teacher.

I remained involved with the NCT afterwards for over two years as a volunteer and again never came across the sort of opinions that Kirstie encountered. Instead, I found a group of women who were very funny, honest and had a collective wish to help other women/ their families based on their own experiences irrespective of what they were and to ensure that support was there no matter what happened whether through choice or not. Maybe it was unique to my branch but I honestly don't think it was.

If I had another baby, I would definitely go back.

curryeater Fri 11-Jan-13 14:25:19

I would like to stand up for the NCT and I can to some extent in the vein that AmandaPayne outlines - the deep anger against them is not entirely in my view their fault.

But then my sister who chaired her local nct makes me think again. I told her my friend had had a baby and she sneered "CS I suppose? looks the type" (my friend is very blond and groomed). I felt very cross about that

mrsshackleton Fri 11-Jan-13 14:32:12

I didn't do NCT because of comments from Kirstie-like gobshites people who put me off. It's one of the great regrets of my life. I was so lonely after dc1 was born.

SparePants Fri 11-Jan-13 14:35:08

Out of "my" NCT group of 7, 5 of us went on to have Caesareans after varying problems and traumas. Our course leader had spent at least half of our 2-day course talking about creating the right atmosphere for birthing. On the second day we complained that we needed practical info, not candles and shit, so she then showed us how to change a nappy which turned out to be the most useful part of the course for most of us. I could really have done with some better information about induction as that wasn't covered at all. With regards to CS we were told that if it came to that, it would all be out of our control anyway. Useful - huh?

I think the aims of the NCT are worthy, but the organisation does tend to attract a certain type of parent/parent-to-be, and they therefore alienate whole sections of our society.

The course was utter rubbish (although my DH reckoned he learned a few things). I did, however, make 6 great friends who I still meet up with weekly 4 years on.

LovesBeingAtHomeForChristmas Fri 11-Jan-13 14:37:03

I'm not a member. However I have volunteered at two sales (in different areas) so have spoken to lots of women involved at different levels. The vast majority were lovely and I won't hesitate to have a natter with them or even join a group.

I have met a couple who were snobby, looking down their noses at the people who were going to buy and just generally reinforcing all the negatives I've ever read.

The nicest were those who spent most of their lives volunteering at top branch level (and were as gleeful as I when they got a bargin)

HappyBaker Fri 11-Jan-13 14:41:18

Have been following Kirstie's tweets and the responses – my view is:

+ NCT provided me with a fantastic network of 5 other girls from whom I gained a huge amount of support and friendship and with whom I spent a lot of time whilst on mat leave
+ the NCT classes were useful (eg practical advice on how to change a nappy and breast feeding session) and informative on natural birth (however, note below re c-sections)
+ I had problems breast feeding (thrush, cracked nipples) and emailed the breast feeding counsellor asking for advice. She emailed me back v quickly with really helpful suggestions and then invited me to her house where she spent an hour showing me different positions. This was wonderful and successful and I breastfed for 10 months for which I am very grateful.
BUT
- we weren't told anything about cesareans: 3 out of 6 of us had emergency cesareans! Another girl had a planned cesarean she didn't tell us about because she was too scared given the focus of the classes.
- completely agree the feedback form should be given some time after the babies are born – it's only then you actually know how useful the classes were
- we were meant to have (and had paid for) a follow up class after the babies were born – this was booked in for two weeks after the last two babies were due which at the time we thought was rather early and unsurprisingly had to be cancelled because 2 of us had brand new babies (both were 10 days late). We subsequently arranged to meet at a local café and the instructor said she would come along. She never turned up or contacted us again.

HellsBellsHoratio Fri 11-Jan-13 14:41:58

I found Kirstie Allsopp's comments reflected my own experience of the NCT well. I attended NCT antenatal classes and a separate NCT breastfeeding course, both of which I felt gave a very one sided view of birth and feeding issues. I felt neither addressed the problems that some women will face in birth and with feeding. The language used regarding intervention and formula feeding was very negative and could cause mothers to feel stigmatized if they had a Caesarean or bottle fed. Just one example of this would be how on the breastfeeding course the leader referred to breastfeeding as 'the proper way'. This was in 2009 and I haven't had any contact with the NCT since.

mouldyironingboard Fri 11-Jan-13 14:47:29

My DC are grown up now but it sounds like the NCT hasn't changed much in the past 20 years.

I bottle fed my DC and was made to feel like I was doing something terrible but was strong enough to believe that my DC would be ok however they were fed. Another mum within the group rang me in tears and was very distressed when she had to stop feeding because of illness. I felt very cross that the NCT had brainwashed her into believing that only breastfed babies can be healthy.

I did make some good friends through the NCT classes but found that the local NHS classes were much more realistic in their approach to childbirth and raising children.

harryhausen Fri 11-Jan-13 14:48:46

I didn't like the NCT classes. The spread of couples was far too wide across our large city so it didn't encourage a 'group' mentality or making friends (which is what we really went for). I found all my mum-friends at my local NHS classes which were great (and free).

I found the NCT focused very much on natural childbirth. Our class on labour was very negative towards painkillers I felt. Very negative towards pethadine and especially epidural. I had booked a homebirth at the time. I ended up in hospital with an epidural, forceps and a horrendous birth. However, the expectations I had on myself were huge and I had a mini breakdown a few weeks after the birth as I felt I was at fault for 'causing' an awful birth. Of course, this was all in my head but I felt the 'natural' expectations I'd had were the cause. I can't blame this all on the NCT though.

Our NCT instructor was also very anti immunisation too which I found difficult. This was over 8 years ago though, and I'm sure this isn't a part of the NCT's actual agenda.

anewmotivatedme Fri 11-Jan-13 14:55:33

I looked them up online, but money is really tight at the moment, so couldn't afford the classes. We would not have qualified for the cheaper classes either.

Friends did the classes, and loved them though.

MrsToof Fri 11-Jan-13 14:56:20

Whilst I didn't attend NCT classes (to costly for me) I did pay for an annual membership so I could meet up with local mums and hopefully find myself a support network via the local meetings. After a horriffic first birth experience that involved being over due to the max, a 4 day failed induction culminating in an EMCS when my son's heart stopped I was looking forward of the support the organisation promised. Alas for me it was not so, I was questioned by mothers for not attending the classes, one member told me I had failed to deliver because I hadn't been properly informed by attending the groups and could have had a more successful outcome should I attended. I stuck it out for two more meetings but had to admit defeat after being questioned about my choice of buggy, (don't you find your pushchair inferior to the bugaboo?) why was I topping up my baby with a bottle, did I regret having and induction? It just went on and on and to be honest I felt i was being bullied by the members of the organisation. I think the problem is as much with some of its members as it is with some of its teachers. The idea of the organisation is wonderful but I do think they need to take a long hard look at themselves and try to improve things across the board.

blondecat Fri 11-Jan-13 14:59:48

I would say I had a good NCT experience except for the CS part

We were a group of 8, youngest 31. One had placenta previa and was going to have a CS no matter what.
The NcT lady still made us read the cat story - so you know it? Cats used to give birth in quiet dark places and were happy and then they were moved to a lab and had to give birth under bright lights and got stressed.
She gave us long long lists of bd thins about c sections. Told us they could stop us bonding etc. One lady,who was the oldest really really bought into all this. She was terrified of a c section and I was sure she would end up with an emergency one. And she did the poor thing, after 30 hours of no pan relief labour when the heart rate dropped
And 2 months later when we met she started crying and asking the others if they feel like they failed somehow by being unable to give birth naturally. It was hounding her still. Out of eight of us five had to have c sections.
Out of the three who had natural births one ended up with third degree tears, one had a ventouse delivery with baby low on agpar scale and stopping to breathe twice. Luckily all was ok in the end.
I think looking at our demographics it was cruel or uninformed to not prepare us for c sections in a more positive way and spend 1 1/2 hours convincing us of their evils. If we were a mid twenties group it would have been different but we weren't.

And one more thing. The way they tried to sell home births was by making hospitals to be scary places eg the cat story. And they told us themselves that women need a safe place to give birth. I hope it didn't make it worse for anyone.

Disclosure: I had a planned c-section. The NCT teacher suggested it was a choice. She was not impolite and did not call me too posh too push. She encouraged me to try and turn my breach baby or try natural anyway. She told me that my baby didn't turn around because i was scared of natural birth.
I thank God for ultrasound and modern medicine because had we tried that my daughter would have died. Poor thing had the umbilical cord wrapped 3 1/2 times round her neck and was flat against the placenta with no space to move. 100 years ago I would have died too.

blondecat Fri 11-Jan-13 15:06:03

One more thing

To be fair I will add that the teacher did admit that c sections were sometimes necessary and could save lives. And that some women may need pain relief.

Very much agree - I only attended a couple of NCT organised things rather than the formal classes and I really enjoyed the bumps and babies groups when my DS was little but it was filled with slightly traumatised women who'd been somewhat brainwashed into thinking having an epidural or any kind of pain relief was a weak, unnatural option and either felt guilty that they'd opted for pain relief or traumatised from having had long and very difficult births with nothing but breathing exercises for assistance.

I do agree that natural childbirth can be a very life affirming, special and even spiritual experience. But if people need or want pain relief or if their delivery requires medical intervention this is not a failure on their part, if they aren't able or choose not to breastfeed there is nothing wrong with them as mothers (I personally did bf for 8 months) and if they need to go back to work when the baby is still young then that shouldn't be stigmatised either.

It's great to have an organisation that organises a lot of stuff for parents and promotes natural childbirth and breastfeeding etc for those that want it, but it needs to be more aware that the most important thing is to support parents in the different choices they make and different circumstances they find themselves in so that they are able to feel confident and empowered to look after their child.

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