Preparing for Birth and Parenthood

Released on: 27 July 2011

New research published today by NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, provides new evidence of the value of antenatal education in the transition to parenthood.

The new research, ‘Preparing for birth and parenthood’ is the latest in a series of recent reports which have confirmed the importance of antenatal education including the Department of Health study “Birth and Beyond: a review of the evidence about antenatal education”1 and Government-commissioned reports, particularly Frank Field MP’s “The Foundation Years”2, Graham Allen MP’s “Early Intervention: The Next Steps”3 and Dame Clare Tickell’s “Review of the Early Years Foundation Stage”4.

In the current climate with many NHS trusts and councils facing cuts, NCT as the market leader in transition to parenthood education is able to deliver efficient and effective parent-centred antenatal courses. Currently NCT reaches around 70,000 parents through courses and drop-ins each year, with NHS contracts including at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, Eastbourne & Hastings NHS Trust and the Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust. In 2010-2011 alone, the charity secured over 100 contracts in Children’s Centres.

Paula Clarke, Consultant Midwife at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, said: “Women now receive consistent high-quality parent education. Communication is good between us as service providers and the teachers – particularly women’s views and feedback of the services provided, which helps with improving care. This has been significantly enhanced with the NCT teaching group.”

NCT’s new report, a survey of 928 expectant parents, finds that only 3% of women said they felt ‘confident’ about birth before attending an NCT antenatal course. Afterward, 98% said they felt ‘confident’ or ‘fairly confident’. Similarly among dads-to-be surveyed, just 1% said they felt ‘confident’ about birth before their course; afterward 97% felt ‘confident’ or ‘fairly confident’.

NCT antenatal teachers undertake a full training programme to gain a DipHE in Antenatal Education, validated by the University of Bedfordshire. Once qualified, they gain an NCT Licence to Practice and standards are maintained through regular reviews, ongoing training and supervision. The Licence to Practise is renewed annually if the requisite conditions are met.

As well as practical skills for labour including breathing, movement and birth positions, the courses cover pain relief options and prepare expectant parents for the early days with a new baby, emphasising the importance of support from family, friends and professionals and providing practical preparation for breastfeeding. When their baby was three months old, 80% of women and 87% of men said the information on breastfeeding provided on their course had been useful.

At a time when they are preparing for a major life transition, NCT antenatal courses also provide expectant parents with a support network in the weeks leading up to the birth and in the early days with a new baby. Of those surveyed, 97% of women booked an NCT course in order to meet other parents, while 96% wanted to prepare for becoming a parent.

NCT-led courses run by Children’s Centres or the NHS are free of charge to parents. NCT’s longer courses are not funded and need to be paid for by parents. Reduced-fee places are available for parents on low income. Any surplus from the course is invested back into the charity’s vital training, public policy work and services.

A PDF of the full report is available at: for birth and parenthood.pdf


Newburn M, Muller C and Taylor S. Preparing for birth and parenthood: report on first-time mothers and fathers attending NCT antenatal courses. London, NCT 2011. for birth and parenthood.pdf

1 Department of Health. Birth and beyond: a review of the evidence about antenatal education. Warwick: University of Warwick; 2009. Available from:

2 Field F. The foundation years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults. The report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances . London: Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances; 2010. Available from:

3 Allen G. Early intervention: the next steps. London: The Early Intervention Review Team; 2011. Available from:

4 Tickell C. The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning. An independent Report on the Early Years Foundation Stage to Her Majesty’s Government; 2011. Available from: