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Following Kirstie Allsopp's post, a guest blog by Belinda Phipps, CEO of the NCT

(246 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 04-Feb-13 10:54:30

A couple of weeks ago, Mumsnet Blogger Kirstie Allsopp wrote a blog post in which she argued that the National Childbirth Trust is over-focused on natural birth, and that women who don't have one can feel underprepared, and even stigmatized. Her post sparked a lot of debate - have a look at the Talk thread for more background.

This week, NCT Chair Belinda Phipps has written us a guest blog in which she tackles some of Kirstie's points, and sets out how the organisation is changing to respond to the needs of all mothers. 

What do you think? Let us know if you post on this subject - or let us have your thoughts here on the thread.

sayanything Tue 05-Feb-13 13:08:03

Sorry, I'll try again.

Link to thread:

The OP in the thread includes a link to the guidance which should work (but maybe doesn't work if I copy and paste it).

And there I was thinking I was so clever I could do links...

Herrena Tue 05-Feb-13 13:08:44

Whether you have a caesarean or not, breast feed or bottle feed, we are here to support you.

Well there's 'support' from a person who actually seems to give a shit that you're upset and there's 'support' from a smug person who has pretty much said that you mush be pretty crap if you can't breastfeed.

There seem to be a disproportionate number of the latter in the NCT volunteers brigade and this is why I don't attend any of their (reportedly very naice) free get-togethers.

I did do an antenatal course with them which I found to be heavily biased, but I am still friends with the people I met on it 19 months on. Mind you I could have met them anywhere!

BartletForTeamGB Tue 05-Feb-13 13:09:03

"They only need to say 'if you do have to use formula, get a HV to talk to you about the correct way to make up feeds etc' - but my tutor said she wasn't even allowed to say that..."

Our leader talked us through how to bottle feed, but said she counted unless we asked her, so I did.

BartletForTeamGB Tue 05-Feb-13 13:09:16


Mog37 Tue 05-Feb-13 13:11:02

I did the NCT antenatal course and it was much better than the NHS course which I went to a couple of weeks after. I do think I ended up with a much better birth as a direct result of the course.

But I didn't make lifelong friends with the women I met. They were nice enough but I did find myself referring to them as "the Competitive Mummies". I stopped going to the meetups altogether after realising that I just couldn't take another evening of playing who had the most expensive house!

ChampyandtheWonderHorse Tue 05-Feb-13 13:16:26

I have only my own experience to add, but I found the NCT people I encountered rather intimidating as well.

I tried about 8 years ago to get involved in a nearly new sale - I went to help set up and was egarded with, well, I felt it was a mix of disgust and indifference by some of the organisers - I remember being spoken to like I was a littl girl, like I was inadequate and no use if I didn't have a husband around, I just felt very very unwelcome. I was 30 and had a 1yo baby.

The feeling I got from the other mothers was that it was proper 'work' for them - maybe it was unpaid but by heck they were going to organise it like it was executive management, it felt like they were 'professional' mothers and very very concerned with upholding the rules. Anything a bit improper was deplored.

I remember walking home feeling really upset though I can't remember the details. Just that I didn't belong there. I wasn't good enough. Even though I breastfed and had a 'natural' birth...

DialMforMummy Tue 05-Feb-13 13:17:11

I just read KA blog and I think she was bang on.
In the class I went to, there was a lot of scaremongering about pain relief and the cascade of intervention and how it may affect the mother's bonding with the child. The scary scenarios we were given, made me seriously doubt the knowledge of the course provider.
When I asked about ffing, I was told "what do you want to know?".
Well, I did not know what I wanted to know, I did not know where to start! confused
If indeed the NCT uses "trained practitioners" then they should look at be more consistent as a lot of people seem to have very different experiences.
I would not, in a million years, have in a million years asked for advice about ffing to the course provider as I cant help but think that I would have had a lecture about the benefits of bf. I felt they were that pushy.
I think KA is spot on when she says that parents must be given a realistic view of what they birth experience will be like. The reality is that one does not always have the choice abut what birth one will have and giving unrealistic expectations can only contribute some mothers to feel like failures.
FWIW, I went to a NCT class in 2010, had 2 emcs and ffed (out of choice). I agree that it not an awful organisation, but it was not for me and I feel I wasted my money.

chicaguapa Tue 05-Feb-13 13:30:00

I have mixed experiences with the NCT. I didn't attend any birth classes but became involved after DD was born by taking over the NCT newsletter. I attended some committee meetings, but not many. I also regularly went to the NCT coffee morning right up until after DS was born 3 years later.

I bf DD exclusively for 6 months and bf DS too. I got thrush with DS and had no support from the GP who helpfully told me that bf'ing does hurt hmm. The NCT bf counsellor was fantastic and found me lots of information to take to the GP to finally get a prescription of diflucan.

In the meantime, I physically couldn't feed DS and had to switch to formula, whilst manually expressing so I didn't dry up. I was nearly in tears buying the formula in the supermarket and it was very upsetting for me.

I went to the NCT coffee morning and was sitting next to the Chairman, who hadn't recognised me even though I produced the newsletter and I was bottle feeding DS, feeling very upset and embarrassed. She turned to me and said how funny it was to see someone bottle feeding their baby during Breastfeeding Awareness week. shock

The thrush went and I was able to work back up to exclusively bf again and stopped when DS was 6 months. But tbh I would have liked to have taken her judgey pants and wrapped them around her neck. I stopped being editor of the newsletter after that as I thought her attitude was shit and too judgy.

So good and bad really. confused

LadyInDisguise Tue 05-Feb-13 13:31:46

I have done the NCT stuff.
At no point did I feel empowered to make my own choices re birth or did I feel I had been given the choices in a positive way.

If I had my way now, I would be looking for some AN classes run by a doula instead.

ClimbingPenguin Tue 05-Feb-13 13:39:12

we got information on FF in our class and spent a while going over intervention giving cs info as well

I don't remember it costing anywhere near 300

Taffeta Tue 05-Feb-13 13:40:26

When I was expecting DS 9 years ago, I'd never heard of NCT thank God.
I attended ante natal classes with DH free at our local surgery. They were informative and unbiased and I met a wide variety of people, a few of whom I am still in touch with.

The NCT has been great for me at two major times in my life ...

Firstly, after my sister recommended them, I signed up for the antenatal classes. These were a great preparation for the birth (had a good water birth which I wouldn't have had without the NCT), a good way to meet other Mums to be - lovely meeting up in the weeks and months after the babies arrived, & helped DH as well as me prepare for the life change ahead.

Then when we moved to a new city when DD was one I went along to NCT coffee mornings and toddler groups - my first friends in a new city where I knew no-one. Those first friends here are still my friends now too - we still go away for weekends together with all the children - who are mostly teenagers now !

I do however think that maybe the National Childbirth Trust should have stuck to it's original name of "The Natural Childbirth Trust" - that would possibly have been more honest as I've found it very much that way inclined. I don't mind that though - it suits me !

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Feb-13 13:49:24

I found it very intimidating. Coffee mornings in these enormous houses, no way these women were coming back to my flat.


Taffeta Tue 05-Feb-13 13:50:07

chicaguapa - that is awful. sad

Treats Tue 05-Feb-13 13:50:20

Given the costs, I don't understand why there isn't more central control of what the NCT teaches on their courses. It seems to be left pretty much to the whim of instructors, and the experiences of MNers seems hugely variable in terms of what advice they received.

If I'd known this before I shelled out my £300+ for a course four years ago, I think I'd have been more sceptical about parting with my money - for that amount I want a bit more of a guarantee of standards.

Also - what do they spend the money on??? It's considerably more than the cost of premises and equipment for the course, and even if the instructor got paid (and my understanding is that they volunteer), the cost is still a lot more than the expense. Which does reinforce the view that it actively discriminates against lower income families.

I agree with the people who say that the view they give of birth should be more realistic. It's all very well advocating for natural birth practices and encouraging women to be more confident in their abilities, but negligent - imo - not to advise that there are going to be situations where it is better - safer for mother and baby - to be induced or have a C-section. I hate the idea that women blame themselves for not having a natural birth, when they didn't have a realistic choice.

anotherNCTlackey Tue 05-Feb-13 14:00:25

champy - I'm sorry that you had that experience. For what it's worth, I'm a volunteer at my local NCT, in fact I'm even on the committee, and I have also had bad experiences volunteering at nearly new sales! I think that it's easy for the sales team to become a bit of a clique and get so stressed about the sale that they forget that the people who are volunteering are giving up precious weekend time to be there. Even though volunteers get first look at the bargains, the sales team is not doing them a favour by allowing them to work extremely hard on what is normally a relaxing family day!

So you might find that the "regular" committee is a bit different if you fancy going along to a social event.

Regarding the competitivity, I have to say that even though I could have easily won "smallest house on the committee" when I first joined up, I have become friends with a lot of the other volunteers, and as a group they are a fantastic group of women. Perhaps I have been lucky...

Avago Tue 05-Feb-13 14:01:55

My Grandfather who raised me died after a long illness when I was 6 months pregnant and it was shortly after that that I allowed myself to get ready for my DS's arrival. I was actually laughed at for leaving it so late - she never took details of where I was so never actually looked into any available classes. NHS classes were fine but over 20 miles away at the maternity hospital I gave birth in and group all lived miles away from each other so no lasting friendships formed.

anotherNCTlackey Tue 05-Feb-13 14:05:40

Ah, just read the blog by Belinda Phipps. It would be great to know what the NCT has done recently - having the father in the delivery room was a big step forward, but didn't that happen in the 1980s?

bealos Tue 05-Feb-13 14:06:49

From what I'm hearing in this thread, is that there doesn't seem to be a standard NCT class taught and it's totally hit and miss as to who you might get.

I tried to join my local NCT antenatal class when I had ds1 7 years ago... I rang up the local teacher and was admonished for thinking I could book so late in the day. Was told it was full and you needed to book as soon as you knew you were pregnant. Silly me, I thought it might be for people who actually needed help. I went to the local NHS classes and they were quite rubbish. I distinctly remember a midwife ramming a baby doll through a plastic pelvis. I'm not sure how that was going to help anyone.

I did go to NCT coffee mornings after and although I'm not in touch with the women anymore (think most of them have moved away actually) it was nice to have some mum friends for a couple of years, as basically none of my friends were having kids then they were still living it up in the 20s.

YippeeTeenager Tue 05-Feb-13 14:15:12

It's against the law for any organisation to promote bottle feeding - the NCT aren't allowed to do it, just like supermarkets aren't allowed to offer any discounts at all on formula.

I did NCT classes and met some really good friends, who got me through the tough early times so they get a thumbs up from me.

Same experience with Mog37 on They were nice enough but I did find myself referring to them as "the Competitive Mummies". I always come back on our night outs feeling crap about how slow my DD is.

bealos Tue 05-Feb-13 14:24:40

The Dara O'Briain skit on NCT classes, that Kirstie posted on her blog, is bloody hilarious!

dilys4trevor Tue 05-Feb-13 14:30:59

I agree on alot of this stuff. Worst is when the nct leader's medical knowledge around 'un-natural' birth is wrong, because she doesn't approve of and therefore doesn't bother to become knowledgeable about it.

I did the classes with DS1 and my biggest gripe was completely wrong information around c-section. DH and I were told as part of the (very short) session on intervention that a 'crash section' was a life or death emergency for both mother and child, always done under a general, and involved a vertical cut from the bottom of one's chest to one's front bottom (not in those words but she mimed the length and position of the cut). It is of course clear to me now that she knew very little about sections BUT I trusted her at the time (why wouldn't I?). I didn't like the mood among all the other parents though, which was that natural birth is of course best for anyone with any class and that I was very woosy for asking about epidurals and sections and saying I wanted as little pain as possible. One of them told me later I was known as 'epi girl.'

One month later and DH and I were hearing 'crash section' shouted down the corridor at the hospital and I was shakily signing the form. Husband burst into tears as he thought it was, as the NCT leader told us, life or death and I was maybe going to die and almost certainly our baby. Of course, it was all horseshit and all 'crash section' really means is 'now, not in half an hour.' It was done under the epidural I had already had and although it was termed an emergency section, this is of course not always the same as 'life or death.' Needless to say, it was the usual bikini line incision!

The next day the head midwife passed by my bed and we had a chat and she was shaking with rage about what we had been told.
At the 'nct reunion' I very nicely pointed out to the leader that the info had been wrong. She said vaguely 'Oh yes, every section is different.'

To echo what another poster said, I met some good friends there and we are still friends 4 years on. But I don't rate the classes and found them a little sneery about my choices. However, most worrying was the fact that a lack of approval or understanding about sections can translate into incorrect and frightening information.

CelineMcBean Tue 05-Feb-13 14:41:33

<<whispers>> my local NCT when I had first dc were a bit, erm, hardline. I remember reading an article in the branch newsletter about how TV would burn the retinas off and fry the brains of any child under 2 who so much as looked at one. I paraphrase but you get the drift.

I started doing a bit of volunteering and there was a new branch chair and suddenly all the hard liners started to drop out and we were left with a bunch of people who were (are??) very much Mumsnetter demographic eg mainly middle class yes, but also very funny and a real mix of backgrounds. I know some had c-sections, some bottle fed, some breastfed, some mixed and some vbac and some homebirthed and some elcs... but most people on the committee I actually don't know. We were too busy swigging gin and trying to make sure new parents had some decent support in the face of dwindling NHS provision and wondering how the heck we were going to pay for it all.

If NCT is not representing you then it needs you to represent it. I think I've stolen that from somewhere but it's true Or, you know just ignore it. It's not mandatory!

pettyprudence Tue 05-Feb-13 14:54:50

I didn't go because I couldn't see what NCT offered that NHS classes didn't, except an expensive opportunity to meet friends.

I did book onto a private hypnobirthing course though (which cost the same amount as NCT), made friends and learnt about what happens to your body when you give birth and how you can assist your body in that process. Our hypnobirthing teacher covered how hypnobirthing techniques can help with planned or emergency CS, Interventions, Induction etc.... and how to question the DR's if intervention is suggested so that we felt empowered and able to make informed choices. We also went through pain relief options - and what the positive and negatives were. I thought it was going to be a bit of a "woo" course but it was actually very practical and medical and I feel it was money VERY well spent.

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