- What does a live and online antenatal course involve?
NCT live and online antenatal courses equip you with everything you need to know about pregnancy, birth and the early days as we manage our lives with the risk of Covid-19:
You’ll meet, learn and bond with other local parents having babies at the same time as you to make vital connections and life-long friends in your community. You’ll be face-to-face in every session, experiencing it all from the comfort of your own home.
Now, more than ever, we want you to feel confident and empowered about becoming a parent. With health and social services scaled-back and other community support unavailable, we are here. Your expert course leader will use focused support time to address your specific questions and concerns in interactive chat groups, as well as making one-to-one time for you, depending upon your needs.
Then there’s the truly memorable postnatal reunion where your group, babies and course leader reunite to talk and reflect – we are hoping to hold these in-person, as long as it’s safe to do so when the time comes. We’ll also make sure you receive a little goody bag of special gifts and offers from our carefully chosen partners.
An online course is fully inclusive for all parents, and so all pregnant mums and partners can attend as there is no additional risk of Covid-19 transmission to you, your partner, your baby, the NCT course leader or any of the other parents attending. Also, since we’ve been delivering them since the middle of March, we’ve noticed a number of specific benefits as well. Watch this video with Val Willcox, expert antenatal teacher and Head of NCT Practice, to understand why parents are finding our online courses an amazing experience:
Find out more about our live, online NCT Antenatal course.
- How can an online course deliver the same experience as an in-person course?
Our tried-and-tested live and online antenatal courses is fun, local and social. You’ll still be face-to-face with your course leader and group, the only difference is that instead of meeting in-person, you’ll meet online using Zoom and WhatsApp. We guarantee you’ll receive the same hours of expert NCT knowledge and support and a highly informative, live and interactive, social course experience.
Since social distancing restrictions were imposed in mid-March we’ve supported over 34,000 parents through online antenatal courses with 85% of them rating them good or excellent. We’re completely confident your live and online antenatal course will fully prepare you for labour, birth and the early days with your new baby and you’ll find it fun, engaging and interactive.
- Why are we moving your antenatal course online now rather than waiting until nearer the time?
With Covid-19 in our society, we will always make informed decisions about how we run our antenatal courses which protect parents to be, their babies and NCT course leaders.
As the UK’s largest parenting charity and the leader in the field of antenatal education, we review the changing Government and NHS guidelines and consult closely with our colleagues at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) to take in the most current and reliable information, research findings and data. This gives us clear insights indicating that little will change in the next few months to make it either more practical or less of a risk to deliver antenatal courses in-person.
The factors we are giving particular consideration to are:
- guidance for pregnant women, in general, and in the third trimester of pregnancy, specifically
- the practicalities of running in-person antenatal courses in line with social distancing and Covid-19 secure venue guidance and impacts on the antenatal course experience.
As an organisation whose mission it is to support all parents to have the most positive experiences of pregnancy, birth and the early days, we want to act promptly and with transparency; informing you about courses moving online as early as possible and giving you information explaining why.
- Why current guidance relating to pregnant women in general and in the third trimester of pregnancy, specifically, means an online course is safer
Despite some easing of social contact restrictions, all pregnant women remain included in the list of people at ‘moderate risk’ (clinically vulnerable) from Covid-19, advised by the NHS to stay at home as much as possible and follow social distancing advice. This is based on evidence that viral infections can be more severe in pregnancy for some women and is also due to the additional challenges of caring for women and their babies during pregnancy and birth if they do contract Covid-19. There are also specific groups of pregnant women included in the ‘highly vulnerable group’, advised to be extremely careful about meeting others outside their household.
Additionally, there is guidance specific to pregnant women in their third trimester (weeks 29-40), which is when most parents will be attending our antenatal courses. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have noted the findings of the UKOSS study, tracking all pregnant women admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the UK, which highlighted that the majority were in their third trimester, and are advising them to be particularly attentive to hand hygiene and to stringently adhere to social distancing. We, therefore, wouldn’t wish to expose parents-to-be – most of whom are in the third trimester of their pregnancy - to the additional risks of attending an in-person course with individuals from up to 9 other households.
As leaders in the field of antenatal education, the decisions we make need to sit hand-in-hand with those who deliver your antenatal care and are using video and telephone appointments, where practical, in order to reduce the Covid-19 transmission risks that come with travel to and attendance in-person. We also need our antenatal courses to be fully inclusive to all parents – pregnant mums and partners, both – so, that regardless of their level of risk, all can attend. This is why we are currently offering our courses online where we can ensure the safety of all groups and individuals whilst providing a fun and social learning experience with other local parents.
- Why isn’t it possible to hold an in-person antenatal course in a Covid-19 secure venue?
NCT antenatal courses run with a minimum of three to a maximum of nine expectant couples plus at least one course leader. To run our courses in a private, community or commercial venue involves bringing together a group of seven-nineteen adults from four to ten households (more if birth partners and expectant parents are from different households) together for multiple sessions of between 90 minutes and six hours duration.
Bringing such numbers together is now possible in England as ‘a larger gathering' and may become so right across the UK in the future if restrictions ease further, if it is considered ‘necessary’ for ‘training and educational purposes’. However, additionally, given the NHS guidance for pregnant women recommends staying at home as much as possible and being particularly attentive to social distancing rules in the third trimester, we don’t feel it to be necessary to expose them or their partners to the risk of meeting others from multiple households indoors when we have the continued option of delivering our antenatal courses online.
We’ve thoroughly explored holding socially distanced courses in Covid-19 secure venues – a possibility should guidance for pregnant women relax in the future. However, we’re concerned that the necessary protocols would greatly impact what you get from your course; allowing far fewer opportunities for interaction than our online courses can deliver. The principles that would need to be observed in order to minimise the spread of Covid-19 infection; strict social distancing, limits on the time spent with those from other households and the number of activities undertaken would prohibit the interactive tasks that enable our antenatal groups to learn and bond so well together and enjoy a fully fun and interactive experience. We can, however, do all this with our live and online courses which ensure your safety whilst providing a fun and social learning experience with other local parents.
Impacts of a Covid-19 secure venue on course experience: We have used real examples from our partner venues to create the attached illustration of the impacts a Covid-19 secure venue setting could have on your course experience and also shown how our live and online antenatal courses can overcome these.
- Why has the length of my antenatal course sessions changed now that my course is online?
Your live and online antenatal course consists of sessions delivered on Zoom and enhanced support sessions delivered on WhatsApp. Together, the hours of the Zoom sessions you’ve been given dates and times for plus the number of hours of enhanced support stated on your course confirmation will equal the same hours in length as the in-person course.
There are a couple of reasons why we have chosen to deliver our live and online courses in this way:
- Taking advice and best practice from our partners in online education across the higher education and corporate training sectors, the Zoom sessions of your online antenatal are being delivered are a maximum of 90 minutes in length with 15 or 30 minute breaks in between if there’s multiple sessions taking place. These session and break lengths have been set to help to ensure you get the most out of the interactive learning sessions as the optimum lengths for helping you maintain concentration and learn in a variety of ways; group and pair tasks, practical skills, exercises, interactive presentations and discussions. Keeping the session lengths to 90 minutes or less, before having a break, should help you to best process, digest and retain the information and skills you’ve learned whilst minimising feelings of eye tiredness and zoom fatigue experienced from engaging on a screen for too long.
- The enhanced support hours are for time spent as a group with your course leader, and are usually delivered on WhatsApp. You’ll use enhanced support for group question and answer sessions, discussions and chats as well as the opportunity for one to one support from the course leader, depending upon your individual and group needs. There’s flexibility as to when and how you choose to use these hours as a group – some use it to check in and catch up in a regular slot between Zoom sessions and others choose as group whether to take the time after particular learning or practical sessions. The support time is also there to enable you to further explore, discuss and ask any questions or concerns you may have about the topics that matters to you, either in a group setting or one-to-one with your course leader. The WhatsApp format is useful for enabling you to ask questions as soon as you think of them and becomes a staple part of how your group connects and supports each other. It’s a way we can really ensure your groups gets focused time and opportunities to bond and get to know each other and form the friendships NCT courses are famous for.