When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided not to do NCT classes. Money was tight, time was tight and I wasn’t sure they were really for me. It remains one of my greatest parenting regrets (and I’m not the only one). Here’s why I really do think NCT classes are worth it.
What are NCT Classes?
NCT stands for National Childbirth Trust. They are a charity who’s aim is to support people in the first 1000 days of parenting. They do this in a number of ways but one of the key ones is the antenatal classes they run.
How much do NCT Classes cost?
In order to answer the question are NCT classes worth it, we need to know how much they cost. Prices vary based on the area where it runs (London and it’s fringes cost more) and how long the course is (this varies by branch and course content). An average 12 hour “Essentials” antenatal course outside of London would cost around £140. You can find full details on the NCT website.
The NCT are keen for their courses to be available to everyone and offer significant discounts of up to 90% for those who are on benefits or a low income. They also offer payment by instalments.
What do the Classes Cover?
The aim of NCT classes is to prepare expectant parents for labour, delivery and caring for a baby as well as managing the adjustment to parenthood. These are all useful things that will benefit you no doubt, but do they make it worth going? Maybe. If you (like me) have very limited experience of babies, then its likely that NCT classes will be worth it.
However, even if you know loads about babies, practically raised your siblings or work in childcare, I would still say they are worth it. Not because of the topics they cover, but because of the friends you’ll make. Parenting is a lonely business and getting out and about with a baby is hard. Babies are cute, but they aren’t very good conversationists. They can actually be pretty boring, not to mention regularly making you ask yourself, am I doing this right? Having friends in the same stage of parenthood, makes all of these things so much easier. I suffered from postnatal depression after my first child and I’ve always felt that having friends who were new parents too would have helped me feel less isolated.
When Should You Book NCT Classes?
When you start planning when to buy your baby stuff, booking NCT classes should be part of that plan. The NCT aim allocate you classes that will run at the correct time in your pregnancy so that you are with other people who are due at around the same time as you. To ensure there is availability, it’s best to book when you are around 12 weeks. Classes tend to be particularly busy if you are due in the autumn (something to do with all those drunken Christmas parties I imagine!)
NCT Classes Or NHS Classes?
While I didn’t do NCT classes, I did do an NHS antenatal class. It was one day, felt very rushed, and I never saw any of the participants again. This is going to vary between areas so I would suggest researching locally to find out what yours are like. Ask for people’s experiences on social media. The benefit of some NHS classes is that they may provide a tour of the labour ward and delivery suite. You may want to attend the NHS class for that alone or see if you can arrange a tour separately.
What Real Mums said when Asked “Are NCT classes Worth it?”
I asked a group of parenting bloggers about their experiences of NCT classes and this is what they said.
Most parents gave really positive NCT course reviews, generally related to the friends they made.
“I attended NCT classes because I have no family nearby and was hoping to make some new friends who are in the same stage of life. 4,5 years later we, 5 families, still meet up and now with new siblings too. In my experience, it was worth to spend the money.” Cosmo Mum
“We did with our first and found the friendships we made invaluable. Luckily we all seemed to have our second children around the same time so didn’t do it again. 8 years on and we still meet up. It was such a great community and stopped us feeling alone when the babies were being … well babies! 100% recommend it.” What Mummy Thinks
“I really enjoyed NCT. It was a small group, so I felt like we got a lot of 1:1 time and we got all our questions answered. Because sessions were on a weekend my partner could go. (And I couldn’t make the nhs sessions due to my work hours) And they were long intensive sessions that kept it all fresh in my head. A Rose Tinted Life
“I did and really valued the training as a new mum and the preparation for labour training. However, we didn’t stay in contact for much longer than 6 months afterwards because people moved. Such a shame as it would be lovely to see how everyone turned out 11 years on!” Thimble and Twig
“I did it and for me the value wasn’t in the content of the classes, but in having a ready made group of mums and babies the same age. I didn’t do the classes to learn anything, but simply as a way of gaining a network and that was invaluable. Friends had recommended it on that basis and it delivered that circle of support for us. We are still in touch now (the eldest children from the group are 12).” Nine to three thirty
“I did do the NCT classes and I loved them. I met some of my best mum friends in the group Especially valuable when we had only recently moved to the area. In fact, even though 10 years on some now live abroad we still see each other every year. Either travelling to see them or them coming here. The training was amazing covering everything from hypnobirthing all-natural birth to what would happen in an emergency as well as complication. When the birth went a little crazy I was prepared and knew what to expect. The meet-ups after the class with babies and the extra support afterwards were fantastic.” Rainy Day Mum
For some parents, the experience wasn’t quite so positive, either because the classes themselves weren’t great, of because they were unlucky with the people they ended up in a group with.
“I basically paid £350 to make friends…which was really the only reason I did it. I didn’t find much else about them helpful. I’m not friends with my NCT group anymore as they treated me so badly when I was struggling with PND after the birth of my second when my then 2yr old was displaying some challenging behaviour with the changes. I was completely ostracised and it def made my recovery harder. I wish I’d never done it to be honest.” Arthur Wears
“I did NCT classes because others had recommended them if you didnt have friends having babies at the same time. Plus our local hospital only did one 3 hour session part of which was the tour anyone could go on.
Our group was lovely. The sessions were chosen largely by us dependent on what we wanted answering, and while the leader was a little way out, she was a great teacher and we didn’t feel pushed into one way or the other. Our group all got on well, and spent the year after birth catching up, going to groups together including all doing water babies together. Unfortunately people have moved away or pulled away from the group and as the only one who went back to work full time, i don’t see the ones who still live locally unless we bump into each other at events. I think we’re still all supportive of each other, including most of the husbands. It was worth it for me for that first year+ of support and friendship. Plus leading me to be on the NCT committee for our area which broadened my local friendship group as well. People say NCT buys friendships and that’s true for many people.
But you have to be lucky with your area and group. A friend ended up on a course miles from home and none of her group really made friends or stayed in contact as they were all from different places.” Bubba Blue and Me
“I was advised beforehand that the NCT group may be mostly comprised of people in their 30’s and middle-class. As a young mum I felt that I didn’t/couldn’t meet the criteria to bond with them at babygroups; it felt very much us and them. The membership was good for the Nearly New Sales though.” Sophie and Lily
My story is much the same as Sarah’s. I found the information helpful but was mostly in it for the support network. Initially it worked well, but before long the group splintered. I was suffering with postnatal anxiety following a traumatic delivery and it made me very paranoid and sensitive.
One of the girls in particular was appalling to me and eventually I removed myself from the WhatsApp group. There were efforts on their part to create drama which I refused to engage in, and I’ve never regretted moving on. I’m aware that there have been further fallings out in the group since and it doesn’t surprise me at all!
“I met some great people at our NCT group, but didn’t find the information or tutor that useful. She told us all that after labour we just feel like we’d “done a hard day’s gardening” and told the Dad’s in the group that “contractions were just like a big hug” Us ladies were not impressed!” Life as Mrs D
And here’s a Dad’s view:
“We did them and got a lot out of the friendships we made. We even ended up a few beds down from one of the couples after Joshua was born so it was good to have someone else around going through the same experience.
Can’t really remember much from the classes apart from the dads being sent into the car park with knitted boobs and a doll to practice breastfeeding holds whilst a group of kids made witty comments through the fence!
Don’t think it prepared us that well for having a C Section and I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for actually having a baby to look after, but I did learn how to put a nappy on a motionless plastic baby which I guess helped a little bit” You have to laugh
All round it seems that most people found some benefit from the classes, for the most part it was because of the friends they made who then helped to make the early months and years of parenthood that bit easier.
Questions to ask yourself when deciding if NCT classes are worth it for you
If you’re still on the fence about weather to do NCT classes or not, try asking yourself these questions:
- How much support do you have? If you don’t have family close by then the more prepared you are the better
- Do you have friends with babies/toddlers? If you don’t, then the chance to make them will be enough alone to make NCT classes worth it
- How is your mental health? If you might be high risk for postnatal depression then NCT classes may help
- Have you got much experience with babies? If you don’t, then it will be useful to help you feel more confident
- Can you afford it? If you really can’t then don’t do it, but do explore the discounted rates for people on a low income
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