National Childbirth Trust (NCT)
- National Childbirth Trust
Where to find it
About this work
A: Administrative and organisational
B: Correspondence and members' papers
C: Core committee minutes and papers
D: Specialist committees and working groups
E: Policy Research
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
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