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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.

DillyTante Fri 11-Jan-13 12:45:04

Not my experience at all. I'm sure there are many criticisms that can be levied against the NCT but you can't deny that they have done much to change the birth experience for the better.

wewereherefirst Fri 11-Jan-13 12:48:39

The NCT in my region only has classes in the monied areas, it's overpriced nonsense that you can get cheaper elsewhere.

Also their 'babies should sleep through the night from 6 month's "factsheet" really gripped my shit.

EMS23 Fri 11-Jan-13 13:12:48

I agree with Kirstie and have waxed lyrical about my awful experience at NCT classes. However, I think it's down to the individual course instructor.

BlipbipBeep Fri 11-Jan-13 13:14:20

Though they do offer very hefty discounts to those who cannot afford it, in my experience it was very middle class women who attended - not a problem for me as I'm middle class grin but it is exclusive in that aspect. To balance that comment though I also went to the local NHS maternity department anti natal classes and the mums there were all middle class too.

I did get a huge amount from the class I attended but most other Mums I have spoken to about it only went to meet other pregnant mums and make friends for life.

AuntLucyInTheNorthPole Fri 11-Jan-13 13:14:31

Not my experience at all. My NCT teacher spent a significant amount of time talking (positively) about C-sections in our course, and explaining who would be involved and what they were all doing. 2 of our 8 went on to need C-section births and were very grateful for the NCT preparation they'd received.

hugoagogo Fri 11-Jan-13 13:15:25

My youngest is 10 so this goes back a bit, but I was certainly intimidated by the nct and avoided it completely.

I had 2 emcs and failed to bf for more than a few days. The NCT literature, that I read, implied that I could have had a natural birth and bf until the dc were two if only I had tried harder.

Maybe they have got better?

VisualiseAHorse Fri 11-Jan-13 13:18:47

I am in Scotland - there isn't an NCT class available near me.

OwlCatMouse Fri 11-Jan-13 13:20:25

Our instructor was very good, but she had 4 children and was pregnant with her 5th, so definitely knew what she was talking about. I didn't feel that she was too focussed on just vaginal birth at all and had had 4 csections herself, talked us through induction, pain relief options, etc. It was great actually.

She did say on several occasions that she didn't feel comfortable pushing natural birth, but she did offer lots of helpful advice on doing things that would assist with one - like keeping moving during labour, and finding a good position for the birth.

I did definitely get the impression though that she was very much an exception. When we had the BF class of the course someone else came to teach that, and this other woman had a totally diffrent and very patronising attitude

ShatnersBassoon Fri 11-Jan-13 13:20:52

I avoided NCT because I believed them to be everything Allsopp accuses them of being. They're dogmatic and prescriptive, so not my cup of tea at all. They seem to think women are fools who need saving from their own beliefs if they differ from their ideology.

Besides, my area is far too Sure Start for NCT to set up camp so I couldn't have gone even if curiosity had got the better of me grin.

OwlCatMouse Fri 11-Jan-13 13:23:13

Oh, we did a sort of role play situation for a csection - one of us lied down, and she showed us how many other peopl would-be in the room, what they were there for, what any equipment in the room was for and why resus equipment might be needed etc. Certainly made it less scary aprospect.

ILikeToMoveItMoveIt Fri 11-Jan-13 13:23:23

That is not my experience at all of the NCT, but I do understand that that is not everyone's opinion or experience.

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.

How exactly does the NCT stigmatise people who have had sections? Does someone from the charities Head Office call them and tell them off? A lot of people seem to think that the people who attend the classes and coffee mornings are the NCT. They are not, they have just used the charity for classes.

Sunshinesarahjane Fri 11-Jan-13 13:25:05

I've just blogged on my own experiences with both C Sections and the NCT at -

The NCT was a lifeline!

MrsJamin Fri 11-Jan-13 13:26:43

I think they are like Health Visitors - they use their personal beliefs and experiences too much in determining what advice they give. It's not standardised information and research-based advice. This gives too much variation and means you can have some really strange NCT courses, or the one like I was on which was quite balanced and pretty informative.

AndiMac Fri 11-Jan-13 13:29:03

I moved to the UK at seven and a half months pregnant and the NCT was fantastic at finding me a course, even at such a late stage. It was also excellent at preparing me for my birth and what I could expect in terms of pain relief and other options during labour, as it's fairly different where I was before.

I had contacted as many people and organisations as possible, (hospitals, private midwives, private birth clinics, any UK based pregnancy websites and bloggers I could find) and the NCT were the only ones who offered anything in terms of support.

NickECave Fri 11-Jan-13 13:29:08

I did not particularly want to pay for an NCT class but was forced to because the NHS one in my area was massively oversubscribed and although I could have attended a preparation for bith class on my own there were no spaces on any classes I could attend with my husband. I paid over £200 for an NCT course which wasn't even in my local area but a few miles away in a wealthier area. The other people on the course were a very different demographic and beyond a few meet-ups post birth I did not stay in touch with any of them. I thought the actual content of the course was OK although very focused on natural birth and since I had a cesarean after a failed induction it felt like money wasted. The instructor did show us how to change a nappy which was actually really useful as I'd not done it before but still not worth £220!

scissy Fri 11-Jan-13 13:30:49

I just completed an NCT course and I didn't have that experience. We spent a significant amount of time covering induction and c-sections because a) "lots of 1st time mums go overdue and end up being induced so if it happens to you at least you know what's going on" & b) the c-section rate in our area is high. There was certainly no emphasis on whale music and aromatherapy - I get enough of that from the NHS midwife thanks! Also, the NCT course was the only place that gave a leaflet about "safe" formula feeding, i.e. how to sterilse properly etc. Every time I've tried to mention it with midwives I've had the hideous childish looking BF booklet shoved in my face, despite having a medical condition that means it's unlikely that I'll be able to BF, hence wanting to see info about FF in the first place.
So there is variation (which is bad) - but a whole organisation shouldn't be tarred with the same brush. My friend just completed the NHS classes in the same area, apparently they were very natural birth whale music and aromatherapy biased - that doesn't mean I think that all NHS antenatal classes everywhere are rubbish and dogmatic though!

Snowstorm Fri 11-Jan-13 13:32:01

I agree with MrsJamin.

RedToothbrush Fri 11-Jan-13 13:34:35

Actually, I don't think its just the NCT. There is an awful lot going on at the moment, from a number of groups including professional bodies that focusses on 'normal' births and its a core of the recent policy making.

Which is fine to a degree as there is a strong case for over medicalising the experience of some women where it is not necessary. However its the terminology and language being used across the board that may be the problem.

For example: 'Failure to Progress' is just one term that defines women as 'failures'. And 'natural' or 'normal' also set up similar overtones of being abnormal or unnatural (and in some ways by definition of that, not feminine or womanly).

If you want to tackle issues surrounding CS and how you approach it, then I do also think it needs to be done with a much greater understanding of how language and judgment associated with that might also be affecting the experiences of women.

No one seems to be really challenging this and I do think it adds fuel to the fire.

PartTimeModel Fri 11-Jan-13 13:36:04

I didn't feel the need to pay NCT £200 or so to attend their classes, and I had no desire to make friends via them, so they were completely irrelevant to me.

BiscuitCrumbsInBed Fri 11-Jan-13 13:36:16

Our NCT antenatal class covered different kinds of pain relief (and not in a negative way!) and also, as someone above said, 'acted out' a c-section scenario so you would know who was in the room and why, which I thought was really helpful especially as I ended up in theatre, they thought they were going to have to do a section but got her out with forceps in the end... Anyway, the teacher was really helpful and not critical of pain relief or intervention. Maybe it just depends on each individual teacher, although if that's the case then there should be tighter guidelines for the teachers on how to approach these things. Just wanted to add my experiences because the NCT seems to be getting into trouble which in my experience is undeserved.

LittleAbruzzenBear Fri 11-Jan-13 13:37:13

One of my best friends was 4 months ahead in her pregnancy than me and kept telling me it was vital I attend NCT classes, but she put me off by telling me about her teacher and the general attitude. Everything Kirstie says really, but my friend liked it so, hey ho.

AmandaPayne Fri 11-Jan-13 13:37:29

We spent a whole session on sections, as one of our couples had already been told to plan for one and the rest of us were keen to cover it too. We did all the running through who would be there, what would happen, even procedures for a GA.

I think, as someone who went through a lot of the same emotions after an instrumental delivery, the thing is that a lot of middle class professional women going into birth thinking it is something that they can control if only they 'do it right' . Often, whatever you say, they don't take on board that that isn't the case. The shock afterwards can be immense, and there is a tendancy to try and blame away that shock.

I was asked back to talk about my labour to the next group that my teacher taught, and all they wanted to know was whether there was a 'reason' they could pin my difficult delivery on. Had I stood up? Walked around? Did I lie down? Did I take the epidural? Did I sit on the birth ball in the run up? It all got quite tedious and I did get a sense of how it must be teaching some NCT groups - quite hard to get through that they could well be the 25% or whatever. So I don't think it's necessarily a failure of the NCT. Sometimes it is that the couples concerned just don't want to hear.

ThalianotFailure Fri 11-Jan-13 13:39:06

my NCT teacher started off her course with the word 'NCT. It stands for National Childbirth Trust not Natural Childbirth Trust, suggesting that she knew full well the reputation the NCT has. It certainly relaxed me immediately, and she proceeded to cover everything. However, talking to friends, it sounds like she's in a minority, most friends' experience was as Kirstie suggests, airy fairy and focussing on natural birth to the exclusion (denial?) of any other kind of birth. I would recommend my teacher for sure, but would suggest that people try to find out what they can about their course teacher before proceeding. Which is a pity.

gwenniebee Fri 11-Jan-13 13:42:47

My experience was certainly not that they were anti- section or anti- pain relief. Most of us wanted to try to have as "natural" a birth as possible but we were very definitely told that if our births hadn't gone to plan we were not to feel like failures. I found the classes very reassuring. (We also did the role play thing about the number of people in theatre for a c-section.)

I have also found their breastfeeding helpline extremely good.

My teacher did say some things we weren't sure were factually accurate, but she was speaking from her own experience at times and made this clear. I have found the group of friends I made a brilliant support network.

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