NCT: misconceptions and the facts
Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of NCT, outlines the charity's services and dispels some of the myths associated with the organisation.
It's a common view that to be involved in NCT you have to be a middle class parent, who had a labour with no pain relief, breastfed and feel a little bit smug because you've made an amazing group of friends to help you cope.
The truth is that much has changed since we started in the 1950s. We still help parents meet new friends but are also rapidly expanding our work so that we can offer support to every parent. Whatever your income, whatever choices you make and whatever challenges you come up against we want to be there for you.
Any change takes time but I feel passionate about this fantastic charity and the support our practitioners and volunteers offer to parents. So when I was asked to do a blog for Mumsnet I was pleased to have the chance to dispel some of the old myths.
- "NCT is just pregnancy and birth"
In fact we are here for parents for the first 1,000 days from the moment you find out you are pregnant right up to your child's second birthday. If you have a look at our website you'll see lots of activities going on in your area, and many of these won't cost you a penny.
- "NCT is just an antenatal course provider"
We do provide antenatal courses, run by trained practitioners, and this is a great way to help parents feel reassured and more prepared as they approach their due date. But this is just one small part of the support that we offer parents and many of our services are free. As well as our website and helpline we have over 300 local branches across the UK. These are run by volunteers who provide lots of support to parents from local bumps and babies groups to nearly new sales. One of the ones I am most proud of is the Little Bundles project in Gloucestershire where volunteers collect emergency clothes and equipment from local mums to give to families in difficult situations.
- "NCT wants to make every parent have a natural birth and breastfeed"
These are two of the biggest myths we come across. Most pregnant women tell us they want to improve their chances of having a straightforward birth and breastfeeding. To meet this demand we provide a lot of support on these topics. However, we know that the experience you want and the experience you have will not always match up. A third of births are now by caesarean and many women struggle with breastfeeding.
My priority is to make sure that parents are given the best chance to have the experience they hoped for but if events turn out differently they are as prepared as they can be to meet this challenge without feeling frightened or guilty. Whether you have a caesarean or not, breast feed or bottle feed, we are here to support you.
The truth is that providing support to a group of people with such different needs can sometimes be a difficult balancing act. If there are things that you would like us to do more of I would like to know and if NCT hasn't given you the support you need, I want to hear about that too.
Everyone tells you that being a new mum is one of the happiest, most exciting things that can happen to you and of course this is true. What people don't tell you is how hard it can be. Coping with little sleep and the ever present fear that you're doing it wrong can be overwhelming. It can be even more difficult to cope if you've had a birth that you didn't expect or that has left you physically unwell or traumatised.
Better care and support from public services could go some way to helping, which is why NCT lobbies to make things better in this area. I'm proud to say our work has made a difference, including allowing dads to be present during the birth, but a lot more needs to be done.
This is where NCT and our army of volunteers come in. They know what you are going through – they've been through it too. If there's one thing you should believe about NCT it's that it brings people together, whatever your experience, creating friendships for life.
- What do you think? Come and tell us on the Talk thread
- Read Kirstie Allsopp's blog about NCT
- See other responses to Kirstie's blog