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Midwives Versus the NCT (National Childbirth Trust)

March 9, 2015

I was lucky enough recently to attend a workshop/discussion about the choice of place of birth in the light of the NICE(National Institute of clinical excellence) recommendations Dec 2014. In a nutshell – women who are low risk should be encouraged to give birth outside of hospital either in a birth centre or home.  Midwives need to alert mothers to the evidenced based increased risks of interventions and caesarean delivery if they give birth in hospital.

It appeared at this venue that the National Childbirth Trust and Midwives were suddenly on the same page. I say suddenly as in my career it has often appeared that the two have been in opposite corners.

I have worked with many midwives who have rolled their eyes at the mere mention of the NCT and the fact that the woman might have a birth plan.  I have heard colleagues bemoaning the fact that the NCT paints too rosy a picture of birth that is totally unachievable.  They blame the NCT for women having unrealistic expectations of themselves and their bodies and also of the kind of services that are possible at their local NHS hospital.

It has at times appeared that the two sides have almost been in competition. That they are fighting for the women to follow either the midwives advice or that of the NCT.  Many midwives are upset that their women choose to go to antenatal classes run by their local NCT rather than attend local NHS classes or worse they attend both and make comments about the differences during the class. There is a lack of trust about the level of education of the antenatal educators against the university level education of the midwives and their professional registration.

The NCT has also historically been linked to more middle and upper class women who could afford to attend the classes. Women from other social strata then felt  that they were somehow excluded from this special “club”.  I know this is now changing and classes are open and encouraged for everyone but I believe it may take time for that impression to change.

Midwives have also challenged the NCT about being too optimistic about birth leaving the woman who has to have a caesarean rather than the beautiful home birth in water she had planned feeling totally disillusioned and as if she has failed. The achievment of a “normal birth” being deemed higher than a safe operative birth because circumstances demanded.

The NCT is a wonderful resource for parents about birth and parenting. Their support for Breastfeeding is unquestioned. Many couples have formed strong friendships gained during their antenatal experience.    The NCT has also been an excellent forum for women to share their birth experiences and challenge the care they have received.

Women have shared experiences of bossy, non-communicative midwives. They tell of traumatic births, where the woman and her partner have felt completely out of control and under the regime of the staff on the labour ward and a routine philosophy of intervention. These women feel they have had no voice in their labour and birth in the face of strong midwives and the “way it is done here”.  The recent Morecambe Bay Report March 2015 however, questioned many of the practices and attitudes of midwives to attempt “normal birth at all cost”.  This resulting in missed opportunities to save mothers and babies lives.

I believe the time is right to bring together the expertise and experience of Midwives and the National Childbirth Trust to work together for better births in the UK.  The NCT and MIDIRS(Midwifery Digest and information Resource Service) are now already together.

With the NCT and midwives working on the same side things can only get better for mothers and births in the UK.  But it might take a while to dispel the myths of the past.

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4 Responses to “Midwives Versus the NCT (National Childbirth Trust)”

  1. sasha Field Says:

    Yes, what you say is true, as a mature student midwife I have seen, with my own eyes the condemnation of NCT, as only for women who can afford it or who want to make friends, and many women are ashamed to admit they need more from antenatal classes. Nhs classes are a bit pot luck to be honest depending on where you are and who takes them.
    I feel that NCT has been a voice for women for decades and I am proud of there feminist history in births rights in the UK and shall be very interested in any collaborative working to address and heal outdated and frankly unhelpful veiws towards the work they do.

  2. Val Says:

    Ahem…I think you’ll find that all NCT practitioners also have “university level education” given that they are all qualified at either level 4 cert HE or level 5 diploma HE or even level 6 degree level!

  3. Wendy Hinds Says:

    Reading your comments, I’m wondering how many midwives have actually observed an NCT course before forming an opinion of what it involves. If I formed my opinion about the attitudes and practices of all midwives and of the RCM based only on the stories that I hear from mothers at postnatal reunions of not being listened to and of non-evidence based practice by midwives, I’d have completely lost my faith in midwives and in maternity services years ago. Please don’t assume that all NCT teachers are a homogeneous mass, with the least skilled or balanced being representative of all of us and of the organisation as a whole.

    I think it’s sad that midwives aren’t as supportive of us as we are of them. We are all trying to achieve the same thing: for mothers to have safe and happy births. Telling women to expect high standards of care and evidence based care in the NHS is *exactly* what the NCT should be doing.

  4. Noreen Hart Says:

    Interesting Blog Helen and I wondered if you might like to observe a local NCT Course so you can see, hear and observe what is covered by NCT trained practitioners and how we strive to achieve a balance between keeping birth positive and managing expectations. Do please contact me if you would be interested. Best wishes Noreen


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