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National Childbirth Trust (NCT)

  • National Childbirth Trust
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This collection includes a mixture of catalogued and uncatalogued materials. Uncatalogued materials are described under the "Accruals" section.

The archive consists of records of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) from the organisation's foundation in 1956 up to 2014, although the bulk of the archive dates from the 1960s to the 1990s. It includes core records of the charity, including constitutional and administrative records, board papers, Council and Executive Committee minutes and papers; as well as records relating to NCT courses, including records concerning teacher training and education; papers concerning conferences and events organised by NCT; publications, including NCT newsletters, magazines and information sheets; press cuttings and articles; NCT campaign and research records; papers of NCT members, and other related papers concerning the activities of the organisation. The archive also includes audiovisual material, including recordings of conference proceedings, interviews and lectures, educational and birthing videos. A selection of films from the collection have been digitised and are available for viewing online.



Physical description

275 boxes; 2 oversize boxes, 44 digital items 2.40 GB (2585919816 bytes) Uncatalogued: 30 boxes; 1 USB flash drive


The collection is arranged in sections A-Q as follows:

A: Administrative and organisational

B: Correspondence and members' papers

C: Core committee minutes and papers

D: Specialist committees and working groups

E: Policy Research

F: Regions

G: Teaching and education

H: Conferences and events

J: NCT publications

K: Library and information service

L: Publicity and Fundraising

M: Press and media

N: Audio visual

P: Photographs and slides

Q: NCT Sales Ltd

Acquisition note

The bulk of the NCT archive was transferred on 08/10/2014 as acc 2121. 47 boxes were transferred on 10/10/2014 as acc 2122. A further 16 boxes were transferred on 17/12/2014 (acc 2142), comprising 14 boxes of Policy Research subject files, ordered alphabetically according to subject. 7 boxes were transferred on 21/05/2015, forming acc 2183, consisting of additional records from the NCT, mostly originating from the Policy Research department, including reports, questionnaires, training documents, project papers, publications, conference documents, annual returns, and other correspondence and papers relating to the activities of the Policy Research department. Also includes Mary Newburn conference papers 2003-2014, and branch newsletters.

Biographical note

The Natural Childbirth Association (later National Childbirth Trust, NCT) was established to help expectant mothers and new parents prepare mentally and physically for childbirth through education, support and information. NCT is a UK-based charity for new parents, providing information and practical and emotional support on parenthood, maternity and childbirth through its National network of local branches, antenatal and postnatal classes, breastfeeding counselling and peer support schemes, and helpline.

NCT also campaigns and lobbies for improved maternity services, focusing on the woman's right to choice and control in childbirth. The group also promotes greater understanding in the care and treatment of expectant mothers before, during, and after childbirth, and increased cooperation with health workers and maternity staff to ensure high standards in antenatal care and education.

NCT was established in 1956 following an advertisement placed in the personal columns of The Times by Prunella Briance. The advertisement called for the establishment of a Natural Childbirth Association to promote the Dick-Read system of natural childbirth, providing support and information to parents in pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.

Briance was inspired by the teachings of Grantly Dick-Read (1890-1959), a British obstetrician and leading advocate of natural childbirth, whereby labour is carried out with a minimum of obstetric intervention.

NCT developed teacher training and ran courses for women, with the first antenatal course held in 1959. The following year, NCT began to lobby for the rigorous assessment of new technology and an end to the excessive use of interventionist techniques, in favour of natural birth. In 1961 the charity changed its name to the National Childbirth Trust and obtained charitable status.

The number of branches and antenatal classes grew in the 1970s, with 37 branches and over 8,000 women and couples attending antenatal sessions. During the 1980s, the number of branches increased to 240, with branches organising local activities and events and providing postnatal support to new parents.

A new group was also formed to take responsibility for the postnatal work carried out in local branches. This led to the development of services including Parentability, a support group for disabled parents. A number of specialist groups were formed in the 1980s, including postnatal discussion groups and local caesarean, miscarriage and postnatal depression support groups. The NCT also began to survey its members on issues including episiotomies, epidurals and postnatal depression, with these views influencing NCT policy and strategy. By 1997, the charity had over 20,000 members in over 400 branches, with 15,500 women and couples attending classes. By 2009, the NCT had grown to 100,000 members, providing antenatal classes to approximately 65,000 parents a year.

As well as offering support and information to parents, the charity also aims to influence public policy through research, lobbying and direct representation and alliances. In 1991, NCT gave evidence on maternity services to the House of Commons Health Committee, resulting in the publication of the Winterton report (House of Commons Health Committee, 1992). Consequently, an Expert Maternity Group was established by the government to undertake a review of maternity services. Eileen Hutton, then-president of the NCT, was invited to join the Expert Maternity Group in 1992, contributing to the Changing Childbirth (DH, 1993) report, published by the group in 1993. Changing Childbirth recommended a woman-focused approach which offered greater freedom of choice for mothers, as well as improved continuity in care and control. The report was adopted as government policy in 1994, phased in via pilot projects across the country.

In 2001, the RCOG, RCM and NCT jointly published Modernising Maternity Care which established benchmarks for Primary Care Trusts in the provision of maternity services. In 2002, a Maternity Services Sub-committee was established to investigate the provision of maternity services, and variation in service provision across the UK. The subcommittee received oral evidence from representatives of the NCT, as well as the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services (AIMS), the Independent Midwives' Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

In 2011, the NCT began a merger with the Midwives information and Resource Service (MIDIRS), a charity concerned with midwifery education, research and practice (merger completed in 2013). In 2012, Baby Café merged with NCT, to provide local breastfeeding drop-in sessions, offering advice to new mothers from health practitioners or breastfeeding counsellors.

As of 2014, the National Childbirth Trust has over 300 branches with 15,000 volunteers, and courses attended by over 100,000 parents a year.

Timeline of key events:

1956: Natural Childbirth Association established

1959: First antenatal course held

1959: Death of Grantly Dick-Read

1960: Begin to lobby for the rigorous assessment of new technology and an end to the overuse of "interventionist techniques"

1960: Specific groups set up to develop training and service requirements for antenatal teachers and breastfeeding counsellors

1961: Obtained charitable status (charity no.801395)

1962-1963: Constance Benyon FRCS takes over chair of NCT's Executive Committee

1963: First leaflet published on breathing control in labour

1967: New panels formed, including the Teachers panel and Breastfeeding Promotion Group

1971: Philippa Micklethwait becomes NCT president

1975: First NCT report published, "Some Mother's Experiences of Induced Labour". Recommendations from the report were presented at the House of Commons

1975: NCT shop established as a separate company

1977: Published L Micklethwait, R Beard, and K Shaw, "Expectations of Pregnant Women in Relation to her Treatment", BMJ, 1978

1980: NCT antenatal teacher pioneered the Know your Midwife Scheme to improve the continuity of care during pregnancy and labour

1980: Postnatal Committee was set up, leading to Parentability (a support group for disabled parents) as well as postnatal discussion groups and local caesarean, miscarriage and postnatal depression support groups

1981: Group for disabled parents formed

1981: Published report on the physical and psychological impact of Episiotomy

1988: Published Postnatal Infection survey

1991: NCT gave evidence on maternity services to the House of Commons Health Committee

1992: Eileen Hutton, NCT's President, was invited to join the Expert Maternity Group, drawing up the government report Changing Childbirth

1994: Changing Childbirth became government policy

1999: Parentability becomes an independent organisation, the Disabled Parents Network.

2000: Introduced telephone support for parents with the Breastfeeding Line

2000: Established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Maternity Services

2000: 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

2003: Better birth environment tool launched

2003: Research conducted into better birth environment

2009: Relaunch of online Info Centre

2009: Contributed to the implementation of the Keeping Childbirth Natural and Dynamic programme in Scotland

2009: Launched Location, Location, Location campaign on choice of birth place, with a research-based report published the same year

2010: Campaigned for standard, clear labelling of baby bottles and other products containing BPA

2011: Published Returning to Work guidelines for parents and employers

2011: Began merger between NCT and MIDIRS (finalised in 2013)

2012: Merger between NCT and Baby Café

2013: Launched the First 1000 Days campaign, including a longitudinal two-year study about life as a new parent during the first two years of birth

Related material

In the Wellcome Library: Books donated by the NCT in 2015

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Accruals note

Some additions (or 'accruals') to this collection have not yet been catalogued. Brief summaries of these materials are provided below. To request access to these uncatalogued materials, or to find out more about them, please contact Some items may have access restrictions which will be explained to you if you request them.

- Acc 2183 (transferred May 2015): 7 boxes of organisational records mostly originating from the Policy Research department, including reports, questionnaires, training documents, project papers, publications, conference documents, annual returns, and other correspondence and papers relating to the activities of the Policy Research department. Also includes Mary Newburn conference papers 2003-2014, and branch newsletters.

- Acc 2242 (transferred December 2015): 23 boxes of organisational records primarily from the Policy Research Department, Maternity Services Group plus assorted publications and correspondence.This accrual also also includes a small amount (less than one box) of Gwen Rankin's personal material and a one box and one boxfile of material relating to the "Sainsbury's affair".

Please contact for more information or to request access to uncatalogued material.

Ownership note

The boxes were collected from NCT's headquarters in Acton, where they were housed in two cupboards. Prior to this, they were kept in an old bunker on the site of the NCT office. During this time, a number of boxes were accidentally labelled for destruction and placed in bin bags for shredding. These were rescued in time and returned to archive boxes, but any original order is likely to have been lost.

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