Parents with buggy in Autumn

We’re incredibly proud of how hard our NCT volunteers, practitioners and staff are working so that we can continue to support new families through the pandemic. Read how we're adapting during the Covid-19 crisis.

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on every aspect of how we live our lives. For many expectant and new parents, experiences of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood have been far from what they expected or would have wished for.  

Some parents have reported silver linings, such as more time at home together and a slower pace of life. However, for many, it has been a time of isolation, anxiety and challenge. Parents of babies born this winter will have experienced their whole pregnancy in lockdown, affecting the care and support that they have received. 

Stripped back health services and community support, restrictions in maternity care and limited access for partners, reduced practical support from family and friends, financial insecurity – these have all combined to leave many parents struggling to cope. In August, the Babies in Lockdown report showed how families most at risk of poor outcomes have suffered the most, widening the inequalities that already exist in early life experiences. 

NCT is here to support all parents and Covid-19 has meant doing things very differently

We’re incredibly proud of how hard our NCT volunteers, practitioners and staff have worked so that we can continue to support new families through the pandemic.  

  • Over one million parents have visited the information centre on our website since the lockdown, accessing regularly updated and evidence-based articles relating to Covid-19 and pregnancy, birth and parenting.  

  • Our free Infant Feeding Support Line has been busy supporting parents to feed their babies, with a greater urgency of need and volume of calls received – providing a safety net in the early days and weeks after birth. Many thousands more have accessed the support of our skilled breastfeeding counsellors in other ways, including through more than 60 community drop-ins that moved online. 

  • Over 55,000 pregnant women and their partners have joined an NCT online antenatal course, preparing for birth and beyond while building a vital social network for ongoing support. Pregnant women and their partners have described this support as a lifeline, giving them chance to learn, prepare and meet others at a time when other support had been stripped away. It has been heartening to see groups providing ongoing support and meeting up postnatally where restrictions allow. 

  • Our NCT branches and volunteers have continued to provide free community support across the UK - ranging from online activities to help break the isolation with safe spaces, friendship and fun, through to Walk and Talks in public spaces and trained peer support for women experiencing mental health issues or facing particularly challenging situations. 

How we are delivering our services 

The social, emotional and practical support that is provided through our charity's support is materially alleviating the impact of ongoing restrictions for thousands of parents every month. Alongside online support, we know how important it is that this also includes opportunity to come together in-person, where it is safe and practical to do so.  

As we move through changing levels of restriction and local or national lockdowns, we continue to actively review the way we are delivering services so that we can respond to changing Government guidance and levels of risk. 

NCT antenatal courses 

NCT antenatal courses continue to be delivered online, as the only way we can be certain of providing a full course experience that is safe, inclusive and interactive for all pregnant women and their partners. 

Pregnant women are included in the group of people at 'moderate risk' (clinically vulnerable) from Covid-19. Whilst this is a precautionary measure, it is based on evidence that viral infections such as flu can be more severe in pregnancy. Guidance from  The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM) advises that pregnant women in their third trimester – the time when most parents will be attending our antenatal courses – pay particular attention to social distancing. This is based on research showing a greater risk of severe illness in pregnant women with Covid-19 who were in their third trimester. 

We have thoroughly explored holding socially distanced courses in Covid-19 secure venues. However, the necessary protocols would greatly impact on how parents experience our courses, preventing the fun and interaction that enable NCT groups to learn and bond so well together. The current outlook of rising infection rates, national lockdowns and periods of self-isolation makes running antenatal courses impractical and unsafe at this time. 

We are therefore continuing to provide our antenatal courses live and online through to the end of February at the earliest. This will ensure the safety of everyone involved while providing a fun, social and interactive learning experience that fully prepares pregnant women and their partners for the arrival of their babies. 

In support of our position, the Royal College of Midwives said: 

“Antenatal classes can be incredibly helpful in preparing for childbirth and parenthood – and for meeting and sharing experiences with other parents-to-be. Online classes, like those offered by NCT, are the safest and most practical option currently and still offer those opportunities, even if the experience is different to getting together in person.” 

It has been fantastic to see new parents getting to know each other through NCT online antenatal courses and then meeting socially with their new babies in person for friendship and mutual support.  While current public guidance doesn’t allow groups to get together socially in England, Scotland or Wales, our outdoor NCT Walk and Talks can support larger groups for the purposes of essential parent support. 

Social Walk and Talks 

Volunteers in our local NCT branches provide a range of free community support for expectant and new parents, and have shown great creativity in moving their support online. Parents can find out what is happening in their area on our local activities and meet ups page. Trained volunteer peer supporters also offer support for women experiencing mental health issues or facing particularly challenging situations. 

We’re delighted that NCT Walk and Talk groups have supported thousands of parents since re-starting last August. The groups are a chance to get outside, meet other parents and access support in a safe, socially distanced way. Of parents attending, 93% felt less isolated and 94% felt their mood had improved. Almost half of parents had not accessed any other parent and baby group in recent months.

We have developed safe operating protocol and risk assessments to ensure the safety of our volunteers, parents, babies and children joining the walks. The risk of transmission of Covid-19 is known to be lower outdoors and there are real benefits of being outdoors and active for mental and physical health. 

In England and Scotland, our Walk and Talks operate under a specific government exemption for charities running support groups. In Northern Ireland and Wales they are paused for the duration of tightened national restrictions.

We’re adding new groups to our website all the time and we’ve introduced an easy way of volunteering to start NCT Walk and Talks in areas where there isn’t currently one running. We urgently need funding to help us run more our these walks to meet demand - you can help by sharing or supporting our appeal.

Infant feeding support 

Our skilled breastfeeding counsellors continue to provide support in a range of ways - whether parents are breastfeeding, formula feeding or a mix of both.  

Our Infant Feeding Line (0300 330 0700) is free of charge and open every day from 8am to midnight, including bank holidays.  

Many of our local NCT branches and breastfeeding counsellors are running online Baby Cafes, breastfeeding drop-ins or groups. Search on our local activities and meet-ups page or message your nearest branch to see what support is available. In some areas we are also commissioned to provide breastfeeding and peer support, which currently includes online drop-ins and one-to-one support by phone or text message.  

Recognising the impact of the lack of in-person breastfeeding support for new mums and their babies, we are working towards trialling safe operating procedures to enable our breastfeeding drop-ins to restart safely with an appointment-based service. 

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