I always joke that NCT is paying for friends. Which is true, to an extent. The couples that I met through NCT have become my friends, but they’ve also provided me with a vital support network through pregnancy, birth, those early days and now lockdown. It’s great knowing you have a little group of other mums just a WhatsApp message away.
For many years I just assumed that NCT classes were the done thing when you’re pregnant. I didn’t actually realise that NCT is a charity and you have to pay for the classes (NCT stands for National Childbirth Trust). But when my midwife advised me to book onto some classes I did a bit of research and decided that we would give NCT a go alongside the classes on offer from our local hospital / community team.
We booked onto a weekend course – attending two 6 hours sessions on consecutive Sundays and then a further 2 hour evening class. Our group consisted of five couples and after some initial nervousness we all got chatting over the various activities that our course leader took us through.
It’s clear that the structure of the NCT course is all about building friendships. At the end of the morning session on the first day the dads got sent to have a chat in the coffee shop while the mums discussed our fears and worries about birth – as well as share some of the more intimate aspects of pregnancy. By the end of the first day we agreed to set up a WhatsApp group. (We fairly quickly set up a separate mums group to moan about things like swollen feet, while the dads set up a group chat to arrange a curry night.)
By the time our babies arrived we’d been chatting frequently. And as we discovered times of the morning that we hadn’t seen since student years it was great to know that I could send a message and someone would likely reply. It also made going to classes and groups much easier knowing there would be a friendly face in the room.
In terms of content, NCT covers birth and caring for your newborn in quite a lot of detail. Although much of the same information is given on the NHS courses I found that NCT left me feeling better prepared for birth. I think that if I hadn’t done NCT or hypnobirthing my experience of having a c-section would have been much more traumatic.
I also found that the NHS courses didn’t encourage bonding with other couples. Although I bumped into one mum from our preparing for baby course (and subsequently became friends as we did baby massage and yoga classes together) that was pure chance. The active birth class we attended at the local hospital had around 30 couples in a 2 hour class so there was no chance for making any real connection.
I know that I’m very privileged to be able to afford NCT classes but I would say if you can do them then do. It may be that the other couples wouldn’t be your people in any other circumstances but there’s something about all having babies at the same time that brings you together and having a support network is vital in those first few months.
But if you can’t afford NCT or you think it’s really not your thing, I’d recommend taking a hypnobirthing class (The Positive Birth Company does a great online course). This will help you prepare for the parts of birth that I found aren’t really covered on the more clinically focused hospital classes.
Did you attend NCT classes? What did you think of them?