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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.

tiktok Tue 15-Jan-13 16:31:16

I don't think 'every single account' of people's experiences has been blamed on recall errors - not by me or anyone.

This is a part of what happens, and it does not matter how many degrees someone has , they can still make errors of this kind.

It's nothing to do with being academic or intelligent, it's to do with being human smile It's happened to me, and it's been done by me as well (in classes and courses where I have been sure X or Y happened, or didn't happen and I was wrong).

I too am positively bristling with brainpower and umpteen letters before and after my name, but it still happens. Can't help it. I'm mere flesh and blood smile

Is that the mistatement from the bfc you referred to, Poppy? It's definitely wrong - what happened when/if you challenged it or complained about it? The bfc concerned would be contacted, and her story would be listened to, and she would be corrected/sent for retraining/put in touch with her supervisor. It's a bizarre thing to say, and not what is taught in training at all.

Was it just that or was there other stuff to make a mine and a plethora?

PoppyAmex Tue 15-Jan-13 16:51:11

"I too am positively bristling with brainpower and umpteen letters before and after my name, but it still happens. Can't help it. I'm mere flesh and blood"

tiktok clearly you disliked the fact I mentioned my academic background, but there's no need to be passive-agressive.

It was an example in a context which seemed relevant and pretty obvious to me, not an attempt to illustrate any type of infallibility, but I think you know that anyway.

Yes, that was one of the statements in breastfeeding class, when answering a direct question from an attendee. She also assured me that my diabetes and hypothyroidism had "no impact" on breastfeeding. I did fill in a feedback form with extensive details.

I wouldn't like to go in too much detail, mainly because this isn't my story to tell but one of the women had given birth the week before and still decided to attend the breastfeeding module for obvious reasons.

She brought the baby with her to class, explained she was struggling, baby was jaundiced, hadn't had a wet nappy in 24 HOURS and the last time before that his nappy had "yellow things" in it. Now, I'm not a physician but I'm pretty sure that the advice she received "to go to a breastfeeding support group to check her latching" and to continue the "excellent work doing skin-to-skin" wasn't the most appropriate!

Anyway, my point is I agree with what the NCT promotes - I did the hypnotherapy, I'm HUGELY pro-breastfeeding and I am/was a captive audience - why else would I have paid for the course?

I'm not "the enemy" here and I'm not attacking the NCT; I'm talking about MY experience with the organisation.

Considering I paid them, I'm a customer and I'll be damned if anyone takes away my right to feel disappointed with the service I got.

tiktok Tue 15-Jan-13 17:23:44

OK, I was teasing a little bit about the academic stuff, but you needed reminding that recall bias is nothing to do with exams ... I wasn't trying to be snide or nasty, honest, just joking a bit. Shan't try that again, for sho'... smile

Diabetes and underactive thyroid don't prevent bf, but it's not true to say they have no impact....she was out of line, no doubt, and your feedback will have led to action.

The mother who brought her baby: bfcs cannot give medical advice and it may have been the case that the mother was in touch with the midwife and the bfc ascertained that....and gave other correct supportive info, knowing the mother was already getting clinical support.

Who is taking away your right to be disappointed with the course??? You did the right thing, in drawing attention to the shortcomings on the form.

ICBINEG Tue 15-Jan-13 22:58:21

hmm have also not noted any particular correlation between number of doctorates/professorship and ability to remember anything you are told without putting a massive amount of your own spin on it....

<may have had some spectacularly bad meetings this week with professors who are determined to bring their baggage to my arguments>

It's a bit odd to suggest it is inappropriate to downplay the bad experiences (or put them in context as I believe is what has actually been done on this thread) meanwhile people are dismissing the 93% satisfaction rating in order to call for massive overhaul.

Surely it is even more ridiculous to downplay the opinions of the 93% than to downplay the opinions of the 7%?

tiktok Wed 16-Jan-13 09:31:22

"It's a bit odd to suggest it is inappropriate to downplay the bad experiences (or put them in context as I believe is what has actually been done on this thread) meanwhile people are dismissing the 93% satisfaction rating in order to call for massive overhaul."


Moreover, 93 per cent satisfaction is of current and recent experiences (of courses; helpline survey shows similar levels), so that has to be factored in. No doubt about it - people can have a bad time with NCT, and the organisation needs to learn from their experiences. But the balance does not suggest a need for radical/systemic change.

I don't think there has been a satisfaction audit of NCT groups and social gatherings where people on this thread and elsewhere report various acts of rudeness, snobbery, judgmentalism, dirty looks, tactless remarks, embarrassed silences...the sort of undesirable things that can happen anywhere, whatever the umbrella organisation's ethos, and which are difficult to avoid in life if you are going to go out anywhere (or stay in, for that matter, with MN smile ) Also hard for an organisation to prevent.

PoppyAmex Wed 16-Jan-13 09:37:07

"hmm have also not noted any particular correlation between number of doctorates/professorship and ability to remember anything you are told"

Oh ffs - well I've noticed a correlation between successful academic results and the ability to take reliable notes from hundreds of lectures / symposiums / debates.

But clearly my NCT notes also suffer from "recall bias". As well as DH's notes and his memory of events.

"Surely it is even more ridiculous to downplay the opinions of the 93% than to downplay the opinions of the 7%?"

They're not opinions, they're experiences and (unlike you) I have never downplayed anyone's, I only ever spoke of mine.

Now I'm told that if it's not recall bias, I'm putting a "massive amount of your own spin on it".

This is frankly beyond the pale and offensive.

If a woman was complaining about insensitive comments made by a doctor would you question a her ability to recall the conversation (or accuse her of putting a massive spin on it)?

Would you question a woman's report of emotional abuse?

In fact, I have seen dozens of cases on this board where women complain about poor breastfeeding advice from the NHS and they're always supported to the chorus of much tutting and talk of "re-training" of the midwives. Never have I seen anyone question their recollection of events.

In fact, funnily enough I'd be willing to bet you'd be amongst the first people "calling for major overhaul".

Anyway, I'm leaving this thread because I'm starting to feel like I'm being gaslighted!

PoppyAmex Wed 16-Jan-13 09:38:33

And that post was a response to ICBINEG - crossed posts with tiktok

tiktok Wed 16-Jan-13 09:51:48

I don't think I or anyone else questioned your personal experience or recall, Poppy, still less your note-taking. Actually, I don't think I have led any session for NCT where any of the parents-to-be took notes, so you're unusual, I think.

The question was about whether all memories or experiences are accurate - they cannot be, and this is a known weakness in any research into anything. This is not to say everyone with a negative experience is wrong, or lying, or mistaken - far from it.

Believe me; some people are. I gave an example of where it happened to me.

It's a known educational conundrum - how do we teach/facilitate learning in a way which is meaningful and lasting, and which people can remember?

Do you really not believe in recall bias? As a phenomenon? I don't think anyone here has suggested any individual has had this - how could we know? But speaking generally, it happens.

And I object to the assumption that I would never doubt a mother's recall of what the midwife or HV said to her. I am not suggesting you search my posts, but if you did, you would find a regular suggestion from me that the poster asks again, gets clarification, finds another source of information. I am certain mothers misunderstand, misremember and even embellish what is said to them by HCPs....some of the time. Because this is what human beings do.

StephaniePowers Fri 18-Jan-13 15:04:10

Re: class satisfaction

Recently I went to a class for which I paid £60 for a 3 hour class to be instructed in something practical. When the instructor introduced the class, it was clear that she would not be covering the aspect of the class which was promised. I asked her about that and she confirmed. So I paid £60 to sit for three hours and learn nothing. The class ran well for an hour - that part was enjoyable - but the instructor ran out of steam and the last two hours were spent chatting.

It was a poor class, but the instructor seemed like a nice person, just somewhat out of her depth. This has nothing to do with the NCT on the face of it, I'm not trying to draw a parallel there. What I did next really surprised me.

I bumped into her about ten minutes after the class had finished, and I thanked her for what she had(n't) taught and said I'd really enjoyed the class.

I have no idea why I did that! I was dissatisfied, £60 worse off, and have slagged the class off to anyone who needed to know, for the past few months. But there was such a strong impetus to say it was good and I'd enjoyed it.

It's well known that we do this. Unless we are allowed to fill in anonymous questionnaires, at some distance to the event, we don't respond with clarity.

I'm just saying that the anonymity here and the ability to assess something with hindsight and the clarity that can bring, might explain the difference in satisfaction rates. It's nothing like 93% smile or even 20%. What work is being done to improve assessment of customer satisfaction, or are threads like this (containing massive amounts of free customer analysis) simply ignored?

StephaniePowers Fri 18-Jan-13 15:10:28

tiktok: recall bias can be dealt with, by repeated exposure to the data in a variety of contexts, with a variety of strategies to facilitate recall. Teachers do this all the time. They do what they can to lessen the chance that students will fail to recall data. It's no guarantee, but you talk about it as though it's inevitable that people will fail to remember covering the important items. It simply isn't.

soundevenfruity Fri 18-Jan-13 15:11:13

Really good point, Stephaniepowers.

tiktok Fri 18-Jan-13 15:53:57

Stephanie, good point about recall bias (about forgetting stuff that was done), and you'll see further downthread that I try to avoid it by doing exactly what you say - repeating stuff. It doesn't work all the time, though, see my example also downthread.

The feedback satisfaction surveys from NCT clients is anonymous and not given to the teacher herself. It is collected centrally. Teachers and bfcs may have their own feedback forms which although anonymous, could well be affected by the need to be 'polite'. The 93 per cent rate comes from the centrally collected feedback.

Willabywallaby Fri 18-Jan-13 17:11:21

I was worried I was the only one that hadn't taken notes, 5 years of that at university was enough for me.

LittleBearPad Fri 18-Jan-13 22:17:53

It would be interesting to know how many people fill in their feedback per and post birth. My own feedback would have been better when I was still living in the 'woo' light a lavender candle and breathe through it belief immediately after the class than post birth when all manner of interventions had happened and I loved both the doctors, midwives and particularly my anaesthetist. Filling in t&r feedback form post birth I was very angry about the lack of preparation the classes actually provided.

Willabywallaby Sat 19-Jan-13 07:06:22

I can't remember filling out a feedback form shock

tiktok Sat 19-Jan-13 11:27:05

All clients are offered a feedback form after the class - if some people are not given one, then something has gone awry, these things happen. Not everyone fills it in.

The centrally collected feedback is collected in the weeks after the birth.

These are two different types of feedback, for sure.

soundevenfruity Sat 19-Jan-13 23:35:45

I don't remember any post birth forms and we filled in the forms that were collected by our teacher.

tiktok Sat 19-Jan-13 23:39:34

The centrally collected feedback is done online - there are no paper forms. It would be very difficult and expensive to send out 50,000 or thereabouts paper forms by post and expect to get many of them back. You will have been emailed a link to fill in the online survey.

G12FEE Fri 01-Feb-13 00:32:29

I opted for NCT antenatal classes as the NHS ones offered were no good with my shifts.

I found my teacher to be very open-minded, had 3 children of her own and, although all of hers were natural births She spoke a lot about other options, including c-sections (emergency too) and all types of pain relief. The aim was to make sure we knew about every possible scenario so whatever happened, we would feel calmer, for our's and the baby's sake.

When it came to discussing breast feeding, another person took this class as the antenatal teacher was unable to talk from experience (even she didn't breast feed). The whole atitude to breast feeding was 'if you want to, there's lots of help available, but if you don't want to that's fine too'. Information was given about the benefits of breast milk in the baby's first 6 weeks but again, there was no pressure placed upon it. The impression I got was, if you can and you want to great but it's not for everyone. It doesn't work for everyone and that's fine too. There's a lot of pressure for new mothers (first time or not) and adding to it with 'breast feeding guilt' is wrong.

I was very lucky. I've had 2 successful home births, both without pain relief. Believe me, if I thought I could have struggled into hospital second time around for pain relief I would have! Realising I just wouldn't make it I faced up to the fact I would just have to get thought it, and I did. I have also been successful in breast feeding both of my sons. I did it as it would save me money, nothing more. The health benefits are, of course, great news but I was fully prepared to go to formula if I needed to. I actually found (to my surprise) I loved it! The closeness to my baby, the feeling of doing something only I could do and that it was of direct benefit to my baby were all added bonuses. It wasn't easy to get it right at the begining but with a little perseverance and help from NCT & a breast feeding group (non-NCT) I found I could do it. I'm glad I breast fed but am happy to formula feed any future children I'm lucky to have if I need to.

My entire experience with NCT was very positive and I have ended up volunteering for my local branch. I really hope anyone who has a negative view of NCT will make contact with their local branch and find out if their negativity is justified. If it is thought a poor experience then fair-enough (and I feel truly sorry you've been made to feel that way), but not every person is the same, not every branch is the same and perhaps your poor experience should be highlighted directly with NCT to make sure others don't experience the same.

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