Over the last month or so we have been working our way through NCT and Hypnobirthing courses. Interestingly (well I think so), for me these where two very different experiences. There were different teaching styles, delivery, information and definitely experiences.
I am going to reflect on these experiences and share my insights, but I think it important to mention, I’m sure others would have different opinions based on/ following the same courses and delivery. My insights are informed and affected very much by my own lived experiences, preferences and learning styles.
Hypnobirthing with The Positive Birth Company
“From this course you will learn about birth physiology, how your body works on a muscular and hormonal level, and what techniques you can use to help make your birth easier, quicker, and more comfortable. ” The Positive Birth Company.
This course was interesting, informative and delivered in an organised way that suited me. Laura was ahead of me on this one, as she’d already been reading The Positive Birth book. While the course was beneficial for both of us, I think I probably learnt more because I didn’t have the existing knowledge from the book. That said, for me this course followed on really nicely from reading Men, Love and Birth by Mark Harris.
Where Mark speaks about the birthing process, about the over medicalisation of birth and introduces home and hypno birthing.
The hypnobirthing course included over 6 hours of pre recorded content, which we occasionally stopped midway through certain parts to discuss our thoughts. However the chapter and topics structure often meant there was a natural place to stop and discuss how that topic/ new knowledge related to our birth preferences. Wether that be about labour or birth positions, pain management or protecting our birth environment.
There were additional resources included which we have skimmed; the one we really looked at was the birth preference template which was really helpful.
While we have now made it to the end of the course (there's a certificate we (I) want to download), there are some sections that we plan to go back to and watch again. Having access to the course content for a period of time allows us the opportunity to go back, revisit certain sections we want to be more confident on or practice.
Personally, I enjoyed and found this style of course delivery more helpful than I expected. It is something I would definitely recommend.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) classes
Unfortunately, I didn't connect with this course or the tutor. I feel like some of the things I didn’t connect with are down to my own misunderstanding of the course itself. That has definitely affected my experience.
I was expecting the course to include more around post birth, given you’re encouraged to book very late into pregnancy. For reference our 5 week course has finished 3 - 4 weeks before our due date. To me that seems very late to be provided with information about pregnancy and birth choices. Changing your birth preferences and plan 1-2 months before birth feels really late to me. It felt more like telling you something, you then couldn't do much about if you hadn't already looked into or thought about.
In part this maybe because we are hoping for a home birth, and so have had conversations, asked questions and read up on how to best support this process for a number of months already.
The NCT course was 12.5 hours and included only 30-40 minutes on post birth. The hypnobirthing 6+ hour course included no post birth material. However it was obvious (to me) that the hypnobirthing course would include no post birth content, whereas I was expecting more in the NCT course.
Our course was led by a lovely person, however Laura and I had a few issues with the way the course was delivered. From the instructor not introducing herself by name in session one, to never providing a course structure or agenda, to neglecting to ask about our neurodivergent needs, which were disclosed on our booking form. This caused a lot of issues in session one and subsequently how, particularly I, received the rest of the course.
I understand there is a difference experience for the birth partner to the pregnant partner, but the gender stereotypes used throughout the course I found board line offensive. I assume some activities are designed with the idea being that birth partners bond in one corner, while pregnant partners bond in another. But it just came off like boys get told this and girls get told that. I’m sure many would find this really helpful, but it just didn’t work for me.
Personally, I also had issues with the expectations and the framing used. My depressive brain doesn’t work with expectations. I am so often drawn to the negative possibilities. It’s very difficult to be in a situation where people talk about “this will happen” or “that will happen will happen” in a particular way. This is definitely a me thing, but I felt the hypnobirthing course, while being prerecorded, better managed by depressive brain and both of our separate neurodivergent needs.
We have been very mindful, and to some extent private, about what we share regarding baby. In part to manage expectations and also to manage my ‘everything could go wrong’ thoughts. With this in mind, I found one of the experiences on the first or second class really difficult (again this is more a me thing). We were told to write down due dates and baby nicknames we’ve been using. I appreciate all the other couples seemed to be happy to share this; however, my experience was I didn’t want to share this. (In my head) It wasn’t a safe or trusting environment where I wanted to share that information. To some that may seem silly. But for me it was another example of the course being delivered regardless of our needs, preferences or lived experience. We were not asked if we were happy to share this, just expected to.
This is where I think the limitations of the prerecorded hypnobirthing course, which may mean some don’t find it as fulfilling or interactive, really suited us, and particularly really really suited me.
One positive thing to mention was our breastfeeding session. This was lead live online by another instructor. The delivery was great, easy to understand, had elements of humour, while also providing valuable knowledge.
I particularly appreciated the couple of times specific questions where asked the instructor answered the question, but worded their answer to make it relevant to everyone and offered to reply to any private follow up questions if we had them.
This session included an appropriately timed break and finished on time, something that didn't always happen with the other sessions.
If this one session was its own course I would massively recommend it. It was really valuable to talk through feeding options, positions, (to some extent) products and the different potential experiences.
I think there’s a lot to be gained from courses, learning and discussions about pregnancy, birth preferences and early baby care. What’s maybe under communicated or appreciated is how important course delivery is in affecting how you receive, respond and engage with the content and how you’re able to best use that to support your own pregnancy and birth journey; particularly if you have neurodiverse needs.
If you are considering courses, ask/ check how the course is delivered; maybe ask if a friend has done the course before. If I’d have know NCT was sitting in a hall on a chair for 2.5 hours maybe I’d have asked if we could look at other courses. Additionally, knowing a prime part of the NCT course is a social aspect, would also have meant I approached the course slightly differently and managed my expectations of the course.
My experience was one of these courses was great and the other really wasn’t. However, I do think it’s important to say that doesn’t mean that one was/ is a bad course. It just isn’t well suited to me, my needs, or to what I’d hoped to gain from it.
I would however massively recommend the Positive Birth Company, even if your not 100% on hypnobirthing, the information is still helpful and really useful.
Please note: This post does not include sponsored content. Neither course provider asked to or has seen this post before it is published, nor have they instructed me on what to say. The views, experiences, thoughts and insights expressed in this post are my own.