NCT: Childbirth Preparation or an Expensive Introductions Service?

I know that I first heard about the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) long before I knew anything about pregnancy, birth or parenthood and long before I wanted to. My own parents did some NCT stuff back in their day, and still know many of the people who were also involved at that time. Ian’s parents also took classes ahead of his birth. Somewhere along the line, without even realising, I picked up the notion that taking NCT classes whilst pregnant would be a good thing to do.

Then I reached the stage of my life where friends and family began to produce babies. I started hearing firsthand about how great NCT classes were. (And also how popular, so ideally I should book my place before I even got a positive pregnancy test!) I felt excited about the prospect of joining a group and, with my voracious appetite for any and all knowledge related to pregnancy, birth and parenting, learning some useful stuff that would really help the process run smoothly. We signed up early on. I didn’t want to tempt fate by doing it too early, but I did place a reminder note in my diary to do it the day after our 12 week scan, which we actually had at 14 weeks. So that’s when I booked.

But then some interesting thoughts began to emerge in parenting forums online and from my friends who’d done NCT classes. It seems that whilst people didn’t dismiss the things they learned, they often felt that there was a lot of focus on actual labour, which is an infinitesimal period of of the parenthood journey. It seemed that the information was sometimes very heavily biased towards “natural” childbirth, and that much of the practical information could be read online or gathered from free NHS antenatal and parent craft classes. It became apparent that the main reason people love the NCT is because of the people you meet. There seems to be enormous value in joining a group of other couples who are all in the same, terrifying yet exciting, place as you and many mothers and fathers equally feel that the biggest long term take-away benefit of their classes were the new friendships that they made.

It makes sense to me. I know many mothers. But those that are true friends are not local, and those that are local are not really friends – they’re people I’ve come in to contact with in a professional capacity. And all of them are already mothers. They’re not at the same stage that we’re at now. Whilst a group of first time mums may be the blind leading the blind, I think it will be reassuring to discuss things with other clueless people without the constant “Oh that’s nothing…. You just wait until….” that a lot of experienced parents seem to come out with when talking to us newbies. I really like the idea of building a local support network for this scariest of journeys that we’re hurtling headlong in to.

However, NCT classes are not cheap. And it has left me wondering what we’re really paying all this money for. If the information and knowledge is insignificant, does that make this no more than a dating agency for expectant couples? And these are people with which we may have nothing more in common than the area we live and the month in which we are expecting our first child. There are no guarantees that we’ll form any friendships at all. At least with a traditional dating agency you get to list a little bit about your characteristics and interests in the hope to be matched with someone at least potentially compatible. It does make me wonder of there is a gap in the market for an organisation that does just that for new parents.

We shall have to wait and see both how valuable I find the teaching and how well we get on with those we are sharing the classes with. I really hope that I both learn a lot and meet the sort of people with whom I want to become friends.

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