NCT vs NHS or both? When it comes to antenatal classes can you ever have too many?
Expecting your first baby is an exciting experience, but the wealth of information out there can sometimes leave you feeling slightly overwhelmed. From the obligatory pile of 'baby books' donated by friends, to well-meaning advice given by parents and grandparents - everyone seems to have a different piece of advice or theory!
Sometimes simply being able to talk about your concerns with people who are experiencing the same things can be a big help and this is where antenatal course, such as the ones run by National Childbirth Trust (NCT) Antenatal, can help.
What is the NCT?
The NCT was formed in 1956 and is a charity for parents aimed at helping them through all aspects of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood. They currently have over 100,000 members and their antenatal classes are attended by over 65,000 parents every year.
What do the classes cover?
The NCT antenatal courses are primarily aimed at those who are expecting their first child and take place during the final three months of pregnancy.
They cover many aspects of pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting, including:
- Pregnancy and your options for how you give birth
- Choosing where to give birth to your baby
- Body awareness, relaxation, breathing and massage
- Positions for labour and birth
- Natural and medical methods of pain relief
- Complications during birth such as Caesarean etc.
- Advice for birthing partners
- How to look after your newborn baby
The idea behind the classes is to give new parents information on all aspects of pregnancy, including the promotion of natural childbirth. That way it is hoped that new parents will have enough confidence to make their own decisions with regards to how or where they chose to give birth to their child.
Who can attend the classes?
Whether you are a couple, a woman on your own or with a birthing partner: all parents and parents-to-be are welcome to attend NCT classes. Don't worry if you haven't got partner as you can also bring along a friend or family member. The NCT has hundreds of branches across the UK and classes are usual held in village halls or community centres. Classes are intentionally kept small and usually consist of between 4 or 5 couples.
Who are the classes run by?
The NCT's Antenatal Teachers are not medically qualified, but undergo a thorough training with the NCT and are expected to keep up to date with all the latest advances in maternity care. What they don't do is offer medical advice, so you should always speak to your midwife, health visitor or doctor regarding any aspect of medical care.
How long do they run for?
Courses typically consist of six weekly sessions. They either take place during the daytime or in the evening and at weekends and each session tends to last between 2 and 2.5. There are also special breast feeding classes which are for mothers-to-be only.
How much do they cost?
With regards to pricing, the courses are split between those lasting less than 6 hours (short) and those over 6 hours (long). The courses are then further split between whether they are held in the evening and weekend or during the daytime. Courses are also broken down into three price bands which are determined by where your course is being held.
All course are priced at an hourly rate. To give you an idea of how the pricing structure works: the price for evening/weekend courses over 6 hours long vary from £8.60 to £13.80 per hour for two people attending and £7.40 to £11.80 for just one; while for same course held during the daytime, prices vary from £7.60 to £12.80 for couples and £6.50 to £10.90 for just one person attending.
A full list of pricing options can be found at the NCT website
Classes book up quickly, so it is best to contact the NCT about their antenatal courses when you are around 12 weeks into your pregnancy. All need to do is find a course in your area and register your interest by completing an online enquiry form at the NCT website. The NCT will then write you confirming the course details and prices etc.
If there's no space on the course you want to attend, the NCT will always try to find you an alternative (even putting on extra classes if they are oversubscribed).
Be aware that the cost of your antenatal course will include a £39 membership fee. Paying this fee is voluntary, but remember that the NCT is a charity and relies on donations to continue its work.
By taking out a membership you will get invites to social events, nearly new sales where you can pick up some genuine bargains for your baby and be entitled to exclusive discounts at the NCT shop.
What if I can't afford to pay?
For parents on lower incomes or benefits, there are discounts on antenatal courses of up to 90% - depending on your circumstances. You can also arrange to pay your course fees in installments.
Those that are entitled to discounted course fees include:
What happens after?
- Under 18s
- Students (under 22 years of age) parents receiving income support, income-based job seekers allowance, council tax benefit, housing benefit, employment and support allowance or working tax credit
- Parents with a yearly household income of less than £15,000
The NCT has a strong social element to it and many new parents find that they really benefit from being part of a network of fellow parents-to-be who they can share experiences with or get advice and support from.
This can be particularly helpful following the birth of your child when new mums can find themselves feeling rather isolated. The NCT offers postnatal support at many of its local branches including regular drop-ins, coffee mornings and social events.
Best of all, even though the course has ended, you will find that the friendships that you have made during its time will go on to last a long, long time!
Whether you've tried NCT antenatal classes before and want to share your experience, or just fancy a chat with other parents-to-be, why not visit the AskBaby forum.