How do you prepare yourself for the imminent arrival of your first child? You can ask those who have gone through it, read up on books, search on Google, ask your midwife (if you can get her during a quiet period) or, as many expecting parents are doing, enroll on a course.

Right now, it seems the pack are divided between the two main pre-natal courses – NCT or Hypnobirthing? NCT, or the National Childbirth Trust has existed for over 60 years, aiming to provide support, advice and teaching to new parents and parents-to-be. They are best known for their pre-natal courses but also provide help for your child’s ‘First 1000 days’ (up to his or her 2nd birthday) which they see as the essential learning and development period. Hypnobirthing, however, has only recently taken off in the UK in the last 15 years, even though it has its roots in the learnings of Grantly Dick-Reed, an obstetrician from the last century whose experience watching a woman give birth painlessly made a huge impact on him and his subsequent research led him to believe that it’s fear which predominantly makes birth painful. Little did he know that his observations would be the start of hypnobirthing, a self-practice of hypnosis and de-stressing to help induce an anxiety-free, calm birth, with little pain.


If you’re still um-ing and ah-ing about how you’re going to prepare for your birth then we’ve outlined some of the best bits and worst bits of NCT and hypnotherapy, along with some personal experiences from new parents.


NCT in a nutshell

NCT will guide you through the whole process from pregnancy right through to what to expect after birth. It covers 6 main themes from best birthing positions, to how your body adapts during birth and how to be a confident parent. There are 2 main antenatal courses – the essentials and signature classes. They are often group sessions, taking place in an area local to you.


What –TEN- Skincare mums say:

“I did my NCT in a 2-day intensive course across 2 Saturdays. I got to know the other people as we were there over lunch and breaks. The NCT classes provided good all round info - our teacher based it on what we wanted to know (which we found hard at first as we didn't know what we needed to know, if you see what I mean!) But as we went on, we were able to direct the discussions to what we felt was important to us. We were all from the same area of Birmingham and all had our babies within a month so it was really good for afterwards as a lot of the same issues came up with the newborns at the same times. There was lots of practical advice on how to change a nappy, how to bath them & all that.” 

 ~ Julia, Bird on a Bookshelf


I did NCT, which I loved - mainly for the strong bond made with couples in the same boat! 5 and a half years on and we're still sharing the world of parenting with over half of the couples met...! Nice to have local families to hang out with too.”

~ Melanie, Digital Marketer


NCT Pros: It’s a great place to meet couples who live in your area and who are due to give birth around the same time as you. Having a good support system of new mothers around you can be comforting and alleviate isolation which many can experience straight after birth.

NCT Cons: NCT classes aren’t run by actual midwifes so many trainers don’t have first-hand experience about being there during birth, unless they are parents themselves. They have also been criticised for being very ‘pro-breastfeeding’ which some can find intimidating and judgemental.



How much: An NCT essentials course (12 hours) costs from £195 for 2 people

Alternative option: Most attendees say that NCT classes are valuable for the friendships and connections it provides so if you decide not to attend, sign up to local pregnancy groups instead or become a regular at specialised pregnancy fitness classes and make friends that way.


Hypnobirthing in a nutshell

Hypnobirthing is less about being Paul McKenna and more about a focus on birth education, teaching self-hypnosis along with breathing and relaxation techniques so that your birth is as stress-free and relatively pain-free as possible. It doesn’t promise to remove all the pain, but aims to ensure a calm and happy labour. This puts you in control of your birth, rather than in the hands of your midwife and helps you embrace the birth process.


What –TEN- Skincare mums say:

“I did borrow some of my friends hypnobirthing CDs which I listened to before I knew I wasn't going the 'natural' route. I loved them! And even listened to them in the waiting room pre C-section to calm my nerves!” 

~ Melanie Gale, Digital Marketeer


Hypnobirthing made me very relaxed, which definitely isn’t my natural state and taught me methods which I still use a year after birth. I also loved the affirmations. From what I’d heard about NCT, it sounded too militant for me – I wanted something a little more hippy dippy!

~ Alexia, Illustrator


Hypnobirthing pros: For those who are keen to have a natural birth, with minimal pain-relief, hypnobirthing can very much help and the techniques you learn can also serve you later in life during periods of stress.

Hypnobirthing cons: It very much focuses on the birth, rather than any elements surrounding it so you may want to invest in some books that cover pregnancy and post-natal advice. Also check your hospital as they should offer a free ante-natal class that covers the time in the lead-up to birth and straight after.


How much: As hypnobirthing workshops are led by individual practitioners rather than a set company, prices can vary from £200 per couple for a large group to £200 per person, with private sessions costing more.

Alternative option: Instead of paying for classes, find free videos on YouTube or buy a set of Hypnobirthing DVDs. There are also books you can read.


Whichever you choose (if either), what’s important to remember is that there’s no right or wrong decision – you must go with what feels right for you. Some people have also opted for both courses, just to cover all the bases!


-TEN- Sound Skincare Science supports mums and babies during and after pregnancy.

Did you do NCT, Hypnobirthing or something different? Let us know what you think about pre-natal courses on Facebook or Twitter.