We’d heard a lot about antenatal classes run by the National Childbirth Trust; mostly that they were madly useful in terms of providing some information, but essentially they were a way of paying some money to meet local-ish parents with a similar due date. They were described to us as a necessary evil to garner a support network, by getting to know parents in a similar situation as you, and setting up a WhatsApp group for them.
After one session so far, that very much seems to have been a fair description. They’re a little thin on content, and the little exercises and games to teach you things, whilst interesting, are mostly there for the parents to get to know each other and make friends. It’s a bit of a shame that the catchment areas are so large, making future local-area meet-ups inevitably rare, but contacts are contacts. I know parents who’ve made friends for life via the NCT, and it’s really encouraging that there were so many dads present. This has actually been the case for all the classes so far, there’s been a pleasing lack of shirking of responsibility, and plenty of game involvement.
As well as the NCT classes themselves, the local hospital also arranged for a full day antenatal class, provided by an NCT teacher. The emphasis is totally different here, it’s about delivering lots of information and dispelling as many myths as possible in the time available. While friendships may arise, after all the catchment area is much smaller, and even the window of duty dates is narrower, but that’s really not the main focus and up to individual parents. There was a wealth of information here, in some cases shedding new light on things, or suggesting a new avenue for research.
I say ‘a new avenue for research’, because regardless of how authoritative the NCT trainer sounds, they don’t necessarily have any medical training themselves. They are not required to be doctors, midwives or nurses; they do have to go on extensive courses, but don’t think like I did that they are all practising midwives. They tend to deride a birth with any element of intervention as ‘medical’, vs the holy grail of the ‘natural’ birth. Now, in some cases this has provided new food for thought which I’ll cover in a different post, but it can feel a bit heavy-handed. Back in 2013, Kirstie Allsopp made her own complaints about the NCT about this public, to the dismay of some.
Overall, antenatal classes of some kind are useful, and I’d totally recommend them. Build your network of fellow parents and get what information and discussion you can. But, only use it as a base for information, by no means should you let yourself get bullied into a childbirth philosophy that may be at odds to your actual needs.