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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.

Abitwobblynow Fri 11-Jan-13 15:13:05

"This is a very politicised, dogmatic and in my experience, scary organisation."

- The best description of the NCT I have heard (and I used to volunteer for them).

In our class, I was literally told that the medical staff were out to get me/stop me from having a natural birth, and it was definitely implied that the epitome of womanhood, the ultimate in female experience, was pushing a baby out.

I ended up making a few bad decisions as a result - water birth which I refused to get out of, resulting in an uncontrolled second stage, and then insisting on being stitched by a midwife (because the medical staff were out to get me), on a quite serious and complicated tear.

Amanda Payne - how can you sift through what you should hear and not hear, when you literally have no idea what is ahead of you? They don't exactly say 'this is the worst pain you will have ever been in, you might think you are losing your mind' do they?!

AmandaPayne Fri 11-Jan-13 15:34:44

Abitwobbly - Actually, "you might think you are losing your mind" is one of the phrases I actually recall our teacher using about transition, but I take your point. My point was really that a lot of women I met seemed to be in denial about the exact fact you stated - that they had no idea what was ahead of them. The women in the group I spoke to had certainly fixed on the idea that if they did the 'right' things, they would get the 'right' outcome. As a result, they did filter out anything that didn't tally with our view. A friend went along too who had had an easy five hour, no stitches labour and they quizzed her for ages on what she had done. She mentioned having listened to a hypnobirthing CD twice and by the end of the session they were all noting down the website she had got it from as it clearly worked. I do think that there is an element of self-filtering goes on.

However, some of these stories are shocking. My NCT teacher, as I said, covered everything with no judgement. She had had three vaginal deliveries and a section herself.

AmandaPayne Fri 11-Jan-13 15:35:19

'that view', not 'our view'

farmersdaugther Fri 11-Jan-13 15:38:26

I join NCT purely to meet other mothers...! I was new to our area and wanted to make friends. Our GP's also held a short course for all Mother in the local area who'd had babies within a month. That was brilliant and I met loads of new local mums. And it was free! smile

My NCT course teacher was much more interested in those who had 'natural' births and asked all of them to write up their birth stories for her webpage. I on the other hand had a emcs after a failed assisted delivery and a very long tough labour (very big baby) I was never ask to write a thing for her. All the mothers who had been able to have a successful vagina deliveries where asked back several months later to chat with the next group of mothers, those of us who had sections / emcs or not weren't asked.

Later when I saw our NCT teacher I mentioned that I would be happy to meet any future groups if she needed anyone, I was told she only wanted 'successful' birth stories. shockangry

I told her DD's birth was successful as she is alive and well. It shouldn't matter how she was delivered, also not like it was my fault I was unable to have a natural delivery and ended up with an emcs.

Lyrasilvertongued Fri 11-Jan-13 15:40:25

I think it definitely depends on the instructors of the courses - the course I attended was not dogmatic at all and covered all areas of pain relief and all types of birth. This may have been helped by the fact the instructor herself had experience of both a c-section and natural birth, but she was incredibly open minded and encouraged all of us mothers to be too.

While the course did cover breastfeeding in detail I also didn't feel pressured into doing this - no more than by the midwives and health visitors that I saw through the NHS anyway.

For me, the NCT course was a positive experience, one that allowed my husband to attend (due to more convenient class times and limited places) and introduced me to several other mother who I enjoy meeting up with. I would have liked to have gained the same from the free NHS antenatal classes, but I found them intimidatingly busy with no emphasis on the social aspect (no opportunity to introduce yoursefl to anyone etc. and over 30 people in a small room) and while the midwife was lovely, she was also very busy and clearly cramming a lot of information into a couple of sessions that were not long enough.

ICBINEG Fri 11-Jan-13 15:45:21

I think this must be massively variable.

We had a class in which EVERYTHING was evidence based and the teacher constantly reiterated that it wasn't her place to have opinions but to guide us through the stats.

She said things like: The stats show you will have less chance of interventions if you have a homebirth. This is partly thought to be due to the alieness of the environment in hospital making women tense. However not all women feel tense in a medical environment and you may even feel more comfortable and less afraid there, so really the important thing to do is identify which environment is most relaxing for you personally.

Not dogmatic as far as I can fact bloody well considered, balanced and supportive!

Shagmundfreud Fri 11-Jan-13 15:48:04

"In our class, I was literally told that the medical staff were out to get me/stop me from having a natural birth, and it was definitely implied that the epitome of womanhood, the ultimate in female experience, was pushing a baby out".

Given that the teacher 'literally' said 'the staff are out to get you' - which is both libellous and untrue I'm hoping you made a formal complaint straight away.

I'm surprised that you, as an adult who (I assume) would have known prior to attending antenatal classes (unless you've been living under a stone for the past 20 years) that interventions in birth are common and may be life saving for mothers and babies, allowed yourself to be so influenced by someone who was clearly an idiot, that you made what you describe yourself as poor choices about your maternity care.

ILikeToMoveItMoveIt Fri 11-Jan-13 16:03:23

I find it odd that people find the breast feeding class one sided. They are breast feeding counsellors, not bottle feeding counsellors confused

They have studied bf'ing and counselling for years to obtain their qualification. They are passionate about bf'ing, so I'm not sure why people expect anything different.

poozlepants Fri 11-Jan-13 16:11:41

I went to one of the NCT intensive antenatal courses and it was fantastic. It covered everything pain relief, c- sections, bottle feeding and loads of practical stuff after the baby arrived. There didn't seem to be any agenda at all. The breastfeeding lady was great and the reason I stuck at it was because of her advice. Far better than the breastfeeding helpers at the hospital.
MY SIL went to one and complained that she wanted her money back from her classes because their teacher hadn't told them it was going to hurt so much and she was totally unprepared. I think in that case the idiot wasn't the NCT woman.

bigbuttons Fri 11-Jan-13 16:12:08

I went to NCT years ago with my eldest, now 14. I don't remember much about the course. I made some good friends from it. Yes we were all middle class, but so what?
What I do remember is the wonderful support i got from the course after ds was born. He didn't stop crying and I was was at my wits' end. I phoned the course leader up one sunday and she invited me round to hers. When I got there her hubbie and kids were all going off to the park. They took screaming 3 week old ds off with them for an hour. It allowed me a much needed break, some company and nice food. When they brought him back her hubbie's comment wen along the lines of " blimey he really does cry all the time"

LittleAbruzzenBear Fri 11-Jan-13 16:12:54

farmersdaughter shock at your NCT teacher! No wonder they have a rep!

Writehand Fri 11-Jan-13 16:13:55

I'm totally with Kirsty. My experience is very out of date though. We only went to classes for our first, and he's 20 now.

My DH was very off put by some of the other men. He felt they were trying to micromanage and somehow "own" the mother's experience of birth.

I had 42.5 hours in labour, failed epidural, failed ventouse, failed forceps and then -- finally - a C section.

The first thing my NCT teacher said when she called after we came home was that "I must not feel a failure" for needing a C section.

I replied, with some froideur, that as both I and my DS had survived I felt the procedure had been a total success. I just thought "You total dick. The purpose of having a baby is to get the baby safely out, not the greater glory of the flippin' mother."

What finally stopped me going to the smug who's got the nicest biscuits coffee mornings was that one of the women in my group was so obsessed with breast feeding and breast only (and her DH was worse) that her poor infant looked like a whippet. I couldn't nod & smile and tell her she was doing the right thing. The child was failing to thrive. It was appalling, particularly with the contrast to that immaculate Cath Kidston/Laura Ashley house.

I later heard that her GP and the community midwife came to their house and threatened to take the baby into care because of starvation. That was the only way to convince them to give the poor emaciated thing a bottle. Bloody idiots. The NCT seemed to promote just as fixed, rigid ideas as the over-clinical hospital culture they claimed to be fighting.

bigbuttons Fri 11-Jan-13 16:14:30

and I had had an em section and I don't remember anyone there making me feel crap about it.
I do remember natural birth being touted as the best possible outcome and of course natural birth IS the best possible outcome rather then traumatic, if necessary intervention. But other birthing possibilities weren't dismissed at all.

adeucalione Fri 11-Jan-13 16:25:25

I have experience of the NCT in two different areas, and both consultants discussed all types of childbirth and pain relief without any judgement at all.

After both births I carried on attending NCT events such as coffee mornings and no one batted an eyelid when I decided to stop breastfeeding - made some very good friends actually.

I can see that this depends on the individual consultant, of course.

FoofFighter Fri 11-Jan-13 16:29:01

From what I have heard from friends experiences, Kirstie pretty much hits the nail on the head.

I don't doubt that as a whole the organisation does good, but individually, maybe less so.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 11-Jan-13 16:30:40

when i had to have a c-section (after preparing for a water birth complete with my own doula), the only thing that helped me through was the NCT teaching on what would happen in theatre and who was who... so many people and could have been really overwhelming.

i wish they could have included a bit more on how to pick up baby post cs and practical stuff.

CaseyShraeger Fri 11-Jan-13 16:33:09

I think it depends massively on the course teacher. Ours had had two unmedicated homebirths but we virtually had to drag that information out of her on the last day. She presented all the information about pain relief and interventions very open-mindedly and encouraged us to be flexible and ask intelligent questions rather than ruling anything out in advance. Out of six of us, there were four c-sections (one scheduled breech, one emergency breech, one emergency failed induction, one emergency asynclitic presentation), one ventouse delivery and one non-instrumental delivery with epidural. None of us were made to feel in any way like failures.

ballstoit Fri 11-Jan-13 16:33:32

This was may experience of the NCT. I went along to a 'Bumps and Babies' group shortly after DC1 was born. Both the leader and other women asked me about the birth (as do most women when you have just had a baby IME), and when I explained he was delivered by forceps, the leader launched into a lecture on how hospitals 'force' women into medicalised birth unnecessarily. I didn't go back again.

In fairness though, my NHS ante-natal didn't mention any birth options other than unassisted, although they did go through the possible types of pain relief.

fromparistoberlin Fri 11-Jan-13 16:37:42

I think the NCT are nominally a charity, but really its a medium for middle class first time mummies to make friends

My NCT teacher was a bit of a cold bitch to be honest, and some of us complained

I think the issue is their very pro birth message, is not realistic in a day and age when most woman have highly medicalised births in a very wary NHS climate

I dont blame the NHS, better to do an intervention than to get sued

Most women I know tend to have a fairly shitty first birth and then a fast (NCT friendly) second one

So the NCT message is hard to live up to as
(a) first births are longer, so many woman cant cope and want epidurals
(b) first births are complicated and ergo tend to be intervention heavy

I think the NCT need to LISTEN up, as I read pages and pages of criticism about them

and stop bloody defending themselves

PolkadotCircus Fri 11-Jan-13 16:38:04

My sister and her husband had a Kirsty experience.They were expecting twins and their group leader refused to discuss or answer their questions on ff and c/s,bil wasn't happy!

sparklekitty Fri 11-Jan-13 16:38:07

I did an NCT course before I had heard anything about them. I found the course to be very good, very much tailored around what we wanted to know. I think the dads found it especially helpful.

The breastfeeding session was done by someone else and we all said we found it a little preachy, we were told that breastfed babies don't suffer wind, colic or reflux (3 of the 9 babies all have) and my friend having twins was dismissed and told of course she would be able to breastfeed them both when she said she was a bit worried.

However, I am still in touch with all my nct friends, I was lucky to get a lovely group of people, they have been a life line for me.

We also have an nct baby cafe in my local town which is excellent and the ladies have helped lots of us no end with breastfeeding issues.

On the whole I have had a very positive experience and personally dont recognise any of the accusations levelled against them.

cazza40 Fri 11-Jan-13 16:52:11

I have bad memories of NCT classes. The teacher was a nightmare a complete bitch who singled me out as I was having my DD in private hospital. I agree with Kirstie and well done to her for speaking her mind.

spookycatandfluffydog Fri 11-Jan-13 16:52:25

I whole heartedly agree with Kirstie on this. I went to NCT classes and although I was planning a natural birth, had a caesarian. The feeling that I had from those classes was that I had "failed". Similarly, the fact that despite lactation consultants etc I had to bottle feed after 3 months left me with a feeling of failure after the way in which things had been conveyed by t

PoppyAmex Fri 11-Jan-13 16:52:42

I attended the NCT classes in Scotland and thought they were dreadful; we had to specifically ask about Caesareans, forceps and ventouse interventions (and even then these were covered very briefly).

A huge chunk of each class was spent on "breaking the ice" exercises to "get to know the other couples" - we honestly felt it was like a pregnant couple dating service, rather than an ante-natal class.

The worst part was the breastfeeding class; when one woman asked if there were any medical reasons that could potentially prevent a woman from breastfeed she was told categorically "no, all women can breastfeed".

I'm sure it depends on the region/class/instructor, but I felt my 195GBP would've been much better spent elsewhere.

MrsShortfuse Fri 11-Jan-13 17:07:31

I'm afraid I agree with Kirsty. I knew the image and I suppose I'm m/c myself so I wasn't deterred. I didn't attend NCT classes but I tried to get help from a bf counsellor whose 'support' was woeful and utterly patronising. I also joined 2 different NCT coffee groups both full of 'in your face' bf and natural birth fanatics mostly with rich husbands and massive houses and no need to work. I had a difficult ventouse birth, with various interventions, although it was still a positive experience, and the medical professionals were superb. I also eventually gave up bf when ds was 4 weeks old and my new 'friends' quizzed me at some length about both birth and bf and one suggested that my failure (yes she used the word) to bf was down to the 'unnecessary' interventions at birth and that I should have been more assertive with doctors. I pointed out that ds was 10lbs and theirs had all been 7lbs ha ha and had all sorts of research quoted at me. They were all just so...earnest and serious somehow - smug I guess. The second coffee group in a different town was very similar.

This was all 12-14 years ago now but I think the NCT really has its work cut out trying to shake off its image.

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