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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.

MrsDeVere Fri 11-Jan-13 17:12:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Abitwobblynow Fri 11-Jan-13 17:12:57

"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."

Thanks for that, Shagmund. So when I get raped, it'll be my fault then. And my H's affair was also my fault, was it?

For someone who had absolutely NO family support whatsoever and I was on my own, being the late surprise to older parents and having never witnessed pregnancy or even held a baby before, I depended heavily on my ante natal classes for support and guidance. Still my fault is it, to be influenced by experts when I didn't have a clue?

And, yes, we were literally told that - through her descriptions of her births and how she 'fought off' the doctors who were wanting to 'interfere with her birth plan'. She was quite angry and that is when we were told they were out to get you. And no, whilst I was very disappointed AFTER the event at the information given, I wasn't going to sue, just felt hugely disillusioned. It was only after my own birth injuries I noticed how all the wives of my medical friends had ECs - why? Because of the high rate of birth injury in the UK (1 in 4 women). And obstetricians telling me that you need to ask your mother and gmother what their births were like, it is all in the collagen and that is genetic. Bit too late, to hear that after the event don't you think? And when I brought up my disillusionment with 'natural childbirth' they gave their private opinion that childbirth in the NHS is hugely politicised and that in their opinion midwives have been given far too much say? I could be making that up too Shagmund you never know.

I did try and raise these issues with NCT [don't make natural childbirth the pinnacle of everything and imply anything less is a failure] - but they are rather, er, dogmatic.

mummyonvalium Fri 11-Jan-13 17:29:14

I liked my NCT teacher. She was pro-childbirth without being dogmatic and really knew her stuff.

I think for me, doing the NCT was as much about meeting people in the same stage of life as myself as learning stuff about childbirth. Most people I know used it for the same reason as me.

Maybe what the NCT needs is governance, monitoring and continuous professional development to ensure that a basic standard is being met. After all, most other professions have to do this.

elastamum Fri 11-Jan-13 17:45:56

I think that governance and professional development are really needed at NCT. The course leader for the 2 days programme I did 14 yrs ago pedalled so much scaremongering rubbish about drugs and intervention (which I know quite a lot about professionally), that it made my hair stand on end.

When I questioned her on a couple of issues she got very arsey hmm

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Fri 11-Jan-13 17:48:30

Why is KA an MN blogger? I thought she couldn't stand MN.
And why are we being asked for an opinion on this?
That's all.

JulesJules Fri 11-Jan-13 17:54:45

Not my experience at all.

Our NCT teacher was lovely and covered all aspects of birth and feeding. The classes were really helpful, and about a million times better than the NHS classes I went to where the midwives were sloppy, out of date and opinionated - and just wanted to finish as quickly as possible "Let's skip the tea and biscuits at the end " (our opportunity for getting to know each other) "so we can all get home earlier"...

Probably the most valuable thing about the NCT classes was meeting the other people - some of us are still in touch 11 years on. Those friendships were such a support in the first few months after having dd1.

I also had a fabulous Health Visitor grin

I think it all depends on your individual teacher.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Fri 11-Jan-13 17:55:00

Oh but - I would have loved to do NCT classes to meet other new mums in my first pg. but like LaBelleDame, I'd m/c so didn't try and sign up until about 5/6 mths, so too late.
Then in desperation I tried the teas - attended a couple and held one myself. Hard work, hardly anyone ever turned up, often they didn't even try todisguise the fact they wanted to nose at other people's carpets, and ultimately pretty depressing.
Except the first one, where I met someone who became a good friend for a while.
But that's not a reflection on their courses, of which sadly I know nothing.
I was very grateful to the b/f counsellors I spoke to in the early days with my three - the advice was so much better than anything the mws ever said, and they were very comforting and re-assuring.

maybeyoushoulddrive Fri 11-Jan-13 18:23:37

Our NCT group was very middle class/posh, apart from one family and us! The lady who ran it was equally moneyed and quite terrifying in a practical no nonsense natural is the only way kind of way IYSWIM? We did have a quick run through induction, but no mention of c/s, just water births (water birthing suite hadn't yet opened at our hospital) and quick active labour where we were to insist no monitoring, upright and active at all times. Was a bit of a shock when I got to hospital!

The NHS classes were actually much more realistic although boring as anything!

Tusty Fri 11-Jan-13 18:24:12

I had a good experience, but that was mostly down to the group of people attending who all clicked and were similar age/wanting to ask the same questions. Most of us had either read about/joined online forums/were pretty educated and with friends who'd been through birth, so had a fair idea of what might be coming up.

Our teacher knew what she was talking about (but too much airy fairy stuff about breathing and massage which isn't me at all), even though having been through 3 large baby natural births, obviously was pushing that and breast feeding which at the time we all wanted to do. She was a bit of a 'hippy' type of mum which just made us all chortle amongst ourselves and get on better together. She did end up as one girl's doula, and delivering the baby as the midwives didn't turn up on time.

The only bits we felt afterwards had been missed out were lots more post birth (rather than eulogising about spending time out with baby and not really doing anything much, more practical would have been helpful). I don't remember talking about csections at all, but having had one along with 2 of the others (out of 9), I don't feel I didn't know enough about them or any of the other hospital based bits. As the whole course agenda was put together according to the questions we wanted to find out about, that would suggest that each group is different in what they might learn.

We were lucky as we all gelled in our group, and the 8 of us who still live in the area are still getting together, but I know a couple of others who had the same teacher, and the group just didn't work as well. Guess it depends on your area, and how far away the attendees live from each other.

We were also asked for volunteers to come back and talk to later groups with our babies. I couldn't make it as they wanted the partners to go too and mine wouldn't, but as BF didn't work for us and I was formula feeding, the teacher passed on my details to a later attendee who knew she was unable to BF for my experiences. Shows that they're willing to take advice from others if that's not something they can talk about.

nameuschangeus Fri 11-Jan-13 18:25:11

I attended nct classes with ds1. They did mention the concepts of induction and caesarean and interventions generally but in an extremely

JakeBullet Fri 11-Jan-13 18:26:31

Mine were fantastic, the NCT teacher was fantastic and went through induction and Caesarean section very thoroughly. I still have friends I made in the group 10 years ago.

nameuschangeus Fri 11-Jan-13 18:29:32

Oops pressed send too early.

In an extremely negative light. The four of us on my course all ended up having sections. I for one felt that I had failed at my birth as any mention of c sections had had such negative connotations during the classes.

It took me 3 years and the natural birth if my ds2 to be able to put my feelings of inadequacy to one side. I blame the nct and their attitudes for this.


scottishmummy Fri 11-Jan-13 18:33:13

completely agree with ka,nct have an agenda and as result cs is demonised
there is a need for open transparent dialogue Inc contraindication and cs
not all birth are natural that needs discussed.nct is pricy,mc and out of touch

alreadytaken Fri 11-Jan-13 18:33:33

too busy most of the time for a blog, don't think I'd be able to make my life interesting enough to attract readers. Didn't attend NCT classes but did go to coffee mornings later with one group. I also met an NCT breastfeeding counsellor who demanded, in the street, to know if I was breastfeeding. I couldn't see why it was any of their business as I hadn't asked for their help. They fed their own children to at least 3 and were rather blatant about it. Both the the coffee mornings and the counsellor confirmed the negative impressions I had of the NCT.

I attended anti-natal classes run by midwives, they were helpful and they also helped me with breastfeeding when I needed it.

MrTumblesCrackWhore Fri 11-Jan-13 18:33:44

I must have been naive/lucky as I only joined the nct prior to ds1 because I had heard it was a nice thing to do and a good way to meet friends. i had too much disposable income in those days and signed up without any knowledge of the organisation. I might not have, had I read some of these posts when I was pg!

Luckily we had a great nct leader and a really lovely class of people whose dc ds1 sees often and plays with still. I had a terrible birth experience ending in c section and later moving on to bottle feeding - no one judged or even really mentioned nct 'values' (we were still in touch with the nct leader)

FrameyMcFrame Fri 11-Jan-13 18:45:52

my NCT expirience was horrible. I was made to feel like an alien because I was a single parent. All the activities were centred around partners and husbands.

I had to have a big cry afterwards.

Needless to say I didn't go back. NHS parenting classes were much more straight forward and I met some friends that are still good friends to me 11 years later.
NCT was excluding and exclusive bulshite for middle class

motherofvikings Fri 11-Jan-13 18:50:17

The NCT classes near me were too £££ despite the fact that both of us earned decent ft wages at the time. hmm luckily we got 12h (6 x 2h) sessions through the Nhs. They covered loads but with hindsight I now know that this was very much a rose tinted view. They told you everything you should do to get x or y result. Eg breathe through contractions like this and it will be fine - not if your baby is back to back and noone has realised yet. Or hold like this for BF and it will be fine - not if your baby has a tongue tie and noone has noticed listened yet. hmm
Of all my antenatal friends we all had different birth experiences and all of us said that the classes presented a rose tinted view of things.

I can't be sure as I didn't do the NCT classes but I'm guessing they're much of a much-ness. Too much rose tinted view and not enough on what may/ may not happen in a less straight forward birth.

Fwiw I had a c section and although I had been to a class that went though the facts - what happens, who's there etc it did nothing to prepare me for an emcs at all. I felt an utter failure as I'd done everything the Nhs classes said to get baby into correct position etc etc. it took me a good year to feel better about it but even now I can't watch anything with childbirth in as it makes me too upset. sad

A healthy dose of realism is what ALL antenatal classes need!

CuriouslyChristmassyColaHam Fri 11-Jan-13 18:53:02

I don't blog.

This isn't my experience in the slightest. We had two people in the class who knew they had to have c-sections. I think they were well catered for. Classes were focused on staying in control and understanding the reasons for various interventions. As well as making me feel that I could try for a natural birth as many people do manage it. Quite empowering.

Like everything though, I can see it would largely depend on the person taking it.

scottishmummy Fri 11-Jan-13 19:00:44

people seem to do nct to meet likeminded mums.middle-class dating agency
priced highly to weed out oiks and undesirables
let's face it the price alone disbars open participation,it's self-selecting of prosperous

CointreauVersial Fri 11-Jan-13 19:01:46

The basic teaching of "childbirth without fear" is a good thing, and no-one can deny the NCT have, through campaigning etc, improved things for women in childbirth over the years.

Personally I have benefitted hugely from the NCT; it is huge round here (in the middle-class haven of Surrey). My antenatal teacher was a fan of homebirths but didn't try to force the idea on us, but I felt very well-informed and confident as a result of the classes. The BF counsellor was fantastic too. Socially I am still friends with people I met through the organisation,13 years on. I joined the local committee for a few years, looking after new members, helping with the newsletter, helping with sales and get-togethers; I found it very rewarding.

There was an almost MN-like rallying round if anyone local needed support (feeding issues, MCs and at least one stillbirth that I remember).

I think I was fortunate to have a well-supported branch with excellent teachers, and I realise not everyone was so lucky, but I have to say that Kirsty is wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Blue81 Fri 11-Jan-13 19:03:35

I went to an NCT class and paid the reduced cost as I am in receipt of benefits. I went when pregnant with my second child as I had a hard time labouring with my first and wanted to be as prepared as I could be.

The classes were great!

The course teacher was really really nice and went through the different stages of labour and included information on induction and pain relief. Yes there was an emphasis on natural birth but there was no making anyone feel a failure if they wanted pain relief or an epidural.

It turned out I needed a emcs under general aneasthetic but because I had done the NCT course I knew that it would take a little longer for my body to produce breast milk and once I was home and struggling to BF I phoned the course teacher and she came out with a BFing support worker for free and gave me some really good advice.

I did end up combination feeding and wasn't made to feel bad about it.

I think that it very much depends on the course teacher and what exactly is wrong with promoting natural birth and BFing anyway?

You don't HAVE to BF or have a natural birth but personally speaking I would prefer to.

scottishmummy Fri 11-Jan-13 19:04:57

I think kirsty has made some points nct find uncomfortable,but I agree with ka
but shell find plenty agreeing and sharing experience,as any mn thread attest
trick for nct is what next,how to ditch the lentil weaving and mc brand image

imogengladhart Fri 11-Jan-13 19:08:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DeGlitterBug Fri 11-Jan-13 19:14:28

We went before 1st dc (2005) and I have to say my experience chimes with others on here. We asked for preparation for caring for a baby, and there was so little sad. The teacher sniggered when we asked for info on changing nappies. I was 26 and had never seen or held a newborn before. The rest of the class were much older -one was 30 and the rest 36+. We felt v out of place. The info on breasted one was inadequate for the challenges we faced -no info about how to know baby was getting enough. After the birth I rang the bf counsellor for support and was told to just putting baby to breast and trying to feed him in response to my worries that he was feeding too often and not getting enough. Apparently he would come off on his own one full. He never did and was readmitted with dehydration a few days later.

I felt the birth preparation was rubbish. The parts abut intervention were scaremongering, yet the parts about natural birth didn't give enough info on how to prepare and cope in order to make that likely. A stupid exercise comparing kneeling up and leaning back for 60 seconds to a contraction springs to mind. Utter bollocks. Breathing exercises would have been far more useful.nforceps were passed round, but all that meant was that when they were whipped out for use on me I was terrified. The teacher went on about her personal experience and mentioned if she did it again she'd try hypnosis. In a subsequent pregnancy I did and it was FAR more useful that the wispy washy generalised scaremongering nct rubbish. V poor.

I made some good friends for the postnatal period, it once the babies were about 2-3 we found we had little in common any more (hardly surprising as 3 were a decade or more older than me and really rather rich). I'm not in touch with any any more. We also did the nhs classes, which were about as much use, but in a bigger group and a more normal range of people.

Blue81 Fri 11-Jan-13 19:15:48


That's a truly awful thing to say to someone who needed a CS. I think I would have smacked her. I had a very traumatic time with my second DS and a comment like that would have been devastating.

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