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for thinking NCT Classes are far too labour focused...

(110 Posts)
AliGrylls Thu 18-Jun-09 09:30:47

During the NCT classes I attended 4 out of the 6 sessions (12 hours in total) were spent on labour. We spent 3 hours talking about post natal care and 2 hours on breast feeding.

At the time I thought it was good to be prepared for labour and I had planned to have a water birth and assumed it would all go according to my plan. The thought of it made me really excited.

However, things did not go according to plan. I needed to be induced and ended up having a general anaesthetic c-section. After the c-section his father had skin-to-skin contact immediately and when I woke up I fed my baby.

The outcome was ultimately what I wanted. A lovely healthy boy. All those hours that I spent obsessing about the labour made me forget the most important thing - the fact that method of delivery is the least important thing in the process and it is the part of childbirth most of us have the least control over.

In reality the problems and minor worries we have had have been about practical things such as putting on baby grows, nappy changes and how often, how deeply our baby should be asleep. Breast feeding is generally going very well but it is a hard slog and I have so many questions and minor problems that I feel I would have benefitted from more focus on this.

In conclusion, a short period of time spent on the basic facts concerning child birth and the decisions I may need to take during labour and a far longer time on baby care would have been much more useful.

warthog Thu 18-Jun-09 09:33:04

well i think maybe one or two sessions less on labour, but EXTRA sessions on breastfeeding / baby care. i think it's important to know your choices during labour so i wouldn't want to cut back too much.


yabtotallyu grin

vanimal Thu 18-Jun-09 09:45:16

Yep I agree. my NCT classes first time round went on and on about childbirth (which ended up being nothing like my planned birth!), yet I didn't really know how to give DD a bath, or how to clean her snotty nose.

A bit more practical advice would not have gone amiss.


chaya5738 Thu 18-Jun-09 09:47:13

I agree with you. I felt a bit disappointed with the classes for that reason. I wanted to know more about what to do with the baby once we got him/her home.

Also, there are so many variations with regards to labour that it took up an unnecessarily long amount of time so that everyone was included. For example, we spent quite a bit of time on hypnobirthing, which I have no interest in, just so one person in the class could be included because that is what she wanted to do.

Changing nappies, ideas for getting baby to sleep, bathing baby etc are all things that everyone needs to know about and eventually take up more of your time (and time when you are alone with no help - unlike giving labour) so more time should be spent on this.

Bramshott Thu 18-Jun-09 09:49:22

I think one of the problems is that NCT classes are mostly for first time mums, and most first time mums (speaking from experience here!) are totally hung up on the labour and birth, and don't really give any thought to what comes after. I agree that the opposite would probably be very useful, but maybe the classes are geared towards what people want at that stage?

CurryMaid Thu 18-Jun-09 09:49:46

I had many a bone to pick with my NCT teacher but I have to say she got us to set our own agenda in the first class and taught us everything we had asked to know.

I think that's pretty standard for NCT so the message seems to be if there's something you want to learn about then you need to ask.

I also think (don't quote me though) that they do separate babycare classes and that the antenatal ones do tend to be pregnancy/birth focused.

JoandMax Thu 18-Jun-09 09:50:21

YANBU for your classes but YABU to the NCT as a whole, they're not all like that!

I had 5 classes and 2 were labour and birth plus details on what happened to your body afterwards, bleeding, boobs, baby blues and emotions etc. Then 1 on breastfeeding and 2 on how to look after a newborn, it was great as I had never changed a nappy before, had no idea how to tell if babies were too hot or cold and all of that stuff.

islandofsodor Thu 18-Jun-09 09:56:17

My hospital antenatal classes were 95% labour and birth and 5% breastfeeding.

Nothing at all about postnatal or how to look after a baby.

Tummytuckrequired Thu 18-Jun-09 09:58:10

No YANBU my NCT class was 90% focused on labour with a 30min demo at the end on changing a baby's nappy.

I was totally unprepared after I had my baby (I had never even held a baby before) and it was a huge shock.

Stigaloid Thu 18-Jun-09 09:59:20

YANBU - i also think they are way too focused on natural delivery and do their best to put you off having any kind of pain relief. At one pont our NCT teacher got one of the dads-to-be to sit on a chair and then kept tying strng on him going "this one is for the catherter", "this one is for the drip", "This one is for the epidural" "this one is.... until he was covered in string and looked like a puppet. At no point did she go - Epidrual's help relieve you from the pain and if you deem it necessary it is definitely worth thinking about. Istead we got "you could end up unable to walk or with a headache for 2 weeks. They could nip your spine" etc etc

When DS was born i had no idea how to dress him - not covered at all by NCT - i had to ask the nurse with me to help me.

fizzpops Thu 18-Jun-09 10:06:35

We were also asked to set our own agenda and ask about anything we wanted to be covered. This did mean that it was quite labour focused as we were all first time parents!

I think I am right in saying that the NCT also do postnatal classes as well which may be useful for some people and don't seem to be as well known. Our local hospital also runs postnatal sessions that the HV told us about.

Our NCT teacher covered breastfeeding although not a huge amount, and she was very realistic about the potential problems, but with no baby to practice with there is only so much you can teach someone.

Nekabu Thu 18-Jun-09 10:18:18

We had either 7 or 8 classes, they did cover labour but the pain relief was something we were told to research and bring the information to class, the teacher wasn't dismissive about any pain relief method and drew up a pros/cons chart which we filled in. We could and did make our own decisions based on our own research on what sounded good and what didn't - obviously all subject to change depending on how labour goes!

We had a breast feeding counsellor in for an entire lesson, and c-sections, bathing, post natal depression (and how partners could spot the signs), etc., have all been covered. The breast feeding counsellor left her name/contact details as well as details for the breast feeding support line.

There's been an NCT baby fair which had maternity/nursing bra fitting, plus lots of stalls with activities, etc., for mothers with babies and the NCT had a stall with details of their post natal classes.

The classes have been of huge benefit to us and have been worth every penny!

MyNameIsInigoMontoya Thu 18-Jun-09 12:17:13

We only had one session on new babies, 1 on breastfeeding and about 5 on birth, I would have loved to have more baby sessions.

I often tell mum-to-be friends now to try and spend a bit more time finding out about looking after babies or helping out with other people's etc, and less worrying about the birth, as that's what I wish I had done!

tiktok Thu 18-Jun-09 12:24:49

Baby sessions are best held after the baby is born - pre-birth, how many women are really going to remember all the post-natal stuff?

I am an NCT breastfeeding counsellor, and I am happy with the emphasis on labour and birth, because that is what people really need to/want to know at that time. They need to have a session with me (or colleagues), true enough, but it only falls into place when the baby is there.

I would think it a waste of time to talk about changing a nappy and dressing a baby - neither is rocket science, and both can be dealt with very quickly and easily on the maternity ward. The mum can teach the dad if he misses out on the instruction.

NCT have peri-natal courses in some areas, which I think is a great idea - same parents go to classes before and after the birth.

LovelyTinOfSpam Thu 18-Jun-09 12:30:54

I asked at both the NCT and NHS ante-natal classes if we were going to do anything about looking after a new baby, as I had never even held one, and was given a short "no".


clemette Thu 18-Jun-09 12:31:28

They are the National CHILDBIRTH Trust so the clue is in the name!

Seriously though, the trend is towards spending time in each class on postnatal baby care, but with agenda setting it is inevitable that much of the ANTENATAL class you pay for is on preparation for the birth.

PS I often wonder why people sign up for NCT classes if they object to the approach that interventions such as epidurals are best avoided. The NCT does have a particular ethos and it is a choice.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 18-Jun-09 12:35:31

When I was doing my NCT antenatal course I thought they ought to do something on baby care - I don't remember anything at all, was told that everyone picks it up naturally, and every baby is different. I was a bit hmm but in retrospect that was fairly accurate. DH got the job of putting on DDs first nappy and babygro while I was being stitched, he managed fine, there was a midwife supervising at appropriate distance, mainly reassuring that babies are tough and don't break grin. I don't think practising on a doll would have been any help at all.

LovelyTinOfSpam Thu 18-Jun-09 13:23:49

Clemette people don't usually know the ethos of the NCT before they go along to the classes though. Nor do they know what to expect. They go because they have heard that NCT classes are something to do when you are having a baby.

If everyone who went already knew all about the pros and cons and tos and fros of different approaches to childbirth/natural birth vs intervention etc etc etc then there wouldn't be much point in going in the first place.

Most people can only see whether their classes were useful, and what could have been better etc with hindsight.

I find your comments slightly odd TBH. Are NCT classes supposed to be only for people already "on message" with regards to natural childbirth? I thought they were for all expectant mothers. In fact I thought that as a charity part of their thing was providing free support to women who needed it, irrespective of their personal views on epidurals etc.

Although I have to say that your comments do tie in with my personal experinece of the NCT. Maybe there should be some kind of screening process to weed out women who are not NCT types. Would save everyone a lot of time and money.

Plonketyplonk Thu 18-Jun-09 13:42:04

I'm actually quite glad that the NCT people were pretty rude and cliquey where I lived and that I avoided them. There seems very much to be an NCT 'type'.

Sallypuss Thu 18-Jun-09 13:54:48

Have to say I went to NCT classes with an open mind but half-expecting the 'natural childbirth' message to be pushed strongly (if you'll excuse the pun grin). It couldn't have been further from the truth. We had a great teacher who set out to teach us what we wanted to know as well as the NCT's syllabus. I had an emergency caesarean and I can remember thinking whilst on the operating table, I'm so glad I found out at the class why there are all these people in the operating theatre!

The other side of course is the social side which I found invaluable after the birth. Guess that makes me an NCT type shock

angelene Thu 18-Jun-09 13:57:13


This was exactly my experience too.

It's a bit disingenuous to say that 'well, that's what new parents want'. Yes of course as first timers the labour and birth is the most enormous, terrifying thing. The reality though is that what we REALLY need is guidance to get through the first 3 months - we just don't know it. The NCT should surely by now have had enough post-natal feedback to have worked this out and should really provide far more of this stuff as a matter of course.

Stigaloid Thu 18-Jun-09 14:39:20

Clemette - as you point out theya re teh nation childbirth trust. I knew nothing of them other than it was good to sign up to meet other mothers in your area due the same time as you. I had no idea they had an ethos or an agenda but they push so strongly for natural births they make epidurals sound like the devils work. At my friends NCT class they pushed so hard on home births one of the fathers had to pipe up and ask for them to focus on hospital births as it was upsetting his wife who was hormonal and started believing that if she had a baby in hospital all sorts of things would go wrong.

They should be neutral in their approach and their advice in my opinion and not make women asking for medicine or having a baby in hospital feel like it is a lesser choice, which is how our classes made us feel. (my friend and I)

veryfragile Thu 18-Jun-09 14:43:57

My NCT classes covered coping with crying, spotting when your baby is ill, baby sleep patterns (and how to cope with them), practical baby care (bathing, changing, dressing), breastfeeding challenges, feelings after birth, and baby slings and carriers.

Re: epidurals..... I wonder if your teacher assumed you knew that epidurals give very good relief from pain, and therefore didn't over-egg the cake on that front. I mean - she shouldn't have made any assumptions, but I think it's fairer to assume that most mothers will know more about what great pain relief they can get with an epidural, then how an epidural is set up and what the possible side effects are! There were people in our group who seriously had no idea what an epidural involves - they thought it was just a quick injection into your back!

I think it's right that antenatal classes should cover the risks of pain relief. It's pretty much read that most women know what the benefits of pain relief are: that it relieves pain!

Would also want to add - that had you had a really empowering and straightforward labour where you were able to put into action the breathing and relaxation you learned in your NCT classes, you'd probably feel very different about the course. Personally I also had a difficult labour (lots of interventions) with my first, but was able to put all my NCT stuff into play when I went into labour with my second and third, so it wasn't money wasted!

veryfragile Thu 18-Jun-09 14:48:34

"They should be neutral in their approach and their advice in my opinion and not make women asking for medicine or having a baby in hospital feel like it is a lesser choice, which is how our classes made us feel. (my friend and I)"

But if you had gone for a hospital class the overwhelming focus would have been on hospital births. Would that have been 'balanced'? Would you expect people to object to that?

It's very hard to hear that going into hospital increases your risk of having a c-section and other interventions. Even if it's true. Still - someone needs to say it.

willowstar Thu 18-Jun-09 14:55:18

this is interesting...I am going to be a new mum in October and start my NCT classes in July. I guess it must be difficult to cater for everyone with different experiences. For example, I have been a nurse, have seen quite a few deliveries, babysat a lot when I was a teenager have no worries washing, changing nappies etc...and have no unrealistic expectations of the horror that can be childbirth, I don't sign up to the 'natural' childbirth only option and am completely open to whatever is best for me and my baby at the time, be that an epidural if things get really bad or a c-section. So maybe I don't fit the NCT type if there is one, but we are going because we just moved to the area and know absolutely no-one as we both commute out of the area to work etc...

so I guess they can't cater for all levels is what I am trying to say and not everyone going to them is only to learn about baby stuff.

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