In This Section
The overwhelming interest and support helped form the Natural Childbirth Association, which later obtained charitable status and became the National Childbirth Trust. NCT obtained charitable status in 1961.
“50 years ago nobody could have foreseen the momentous changes the charity would bring about. Since then NCT has helped millions of parents and changed the way we manage and view the process of becoming a parent.” — Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive.
During the 1960s NCT began to lobby the Government calling for the rigorous assessment of new technology and an end to the overuse of “interventionist techniques”. The first leaflets on breathing control, labour itself and breastfeeding were also published. These were ordered in bulk by health authorities and magazines frequently referred to the work of NCT giving it a wider audience. Specific groups were formed within NCT to take responsibility for training and service requirements for antenatal teachers and breastfeeding counsellors.
By the early 1970s there were 37 branches and over 8,000 women/couples attended NCT antenatal classes. There was still much dissatisfaction with maternity services.
The demand for antenatal classes and information continued to increase during the 1980s. The 240 NCT branches were also developing the support available for new parents postnatally, through local activities and groups. NCT formed a new group to take responsibility for the postnatal work being done in the branches. This helped develop services including Parentability (a support group for disabled parents), postnatal discussion groups and local caesarean, miscarriage and postnatal depression support groups.
NCT continued to produce leaflets and conduct surveys of its members on issues such as episiotomies, epidurals and postnatal depression. Research-based information became the key to NCT policy.
In 1991 NCT gave evidence on maternity services to the Winterton Committee based on its own research. Eileen Hutton, NCT’s President, was invited to join the Expert Maternity Group, which examined the maternity care available in the light of what women wanted. Its report, Changing Childbirth, was adopted as Government policy for England and Wales in January 1994. In December 1998 NCT developed its 10 Point Plan for Maternity Care to ensure these recommendations were put into practice.
By 1997 NCT had over 50,000 members in over 400 branches. 15,500 couples attended NCT classes. Antenatal teacher training was now validated by the University of Luton - the Diploma of Higher Education (Antenatal Teaching).
During the 21st century, NCT has continued to expand its work for all parents, increasing the number of branches, the range of services available across the UK and introducing telephone support for parents with the Breastfeeding Line and the Pregnancy & Birth Line. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity Services was established in 2000 and NCT is actively involved in this group. NCT was involved in the development of the National Service Frameworks for Children, (in England and in Wales), and the Clinical Standards for Maternity Services in Scotland and is now lobbying for full implementation to ensure access and individualised services are available for all in the UK. Links are being developed with related government sponsored organisations such as Surestart.
By 2009 NCT reached 100,000 members. We provide antenatal classes to around 65,000 parents each year and we now run early days postnatal classes for around 4,000 parents each year. The charity is still growing and we are looking forward to the next 50 years.
The original aims of the Association as published in 1956
- That women should be humanely treated during pregnancy and in labour, never hurried, bullied or ridiculed.
- That husbands should be present during labour if mutually desired.
- That analgesia should not be forced on women in childbirth (and) nor should labour be induced merely to save time.
- That more emphasis should be given to self-regulated breastfeeding and rooming-in allowed if the mother wants it, and that future maternity units should be designed with this in mind.
- That a mother trained for natural childbirth should be allowed and encouraged to carry out her training fully during labour.
- That all mothers should be encouraged to use natural childbirth for the benefit of themselves and their babies and that posters to this effect should be displayed at all antenatal clinics.
- That the idea fostered by many medical people today that natural childbirth includes routine internal examination, routine administration of analgesia, routine episiotomy should be dispelled.
- As childbirth is not a disease it should take place in the home wherever possible. If impossible the maternity units should be homely and unfrightening and in no way connected with hospital.