Campaigning legacy: 60 years of speaking out for parents

This guest blog comes from NCT London Regional Coordinator and #HiddenHalf champion, Fiona Doyle.

Six decades of campaigning for change

Since its inception in 1956, NCT has been a pioneer in giving parents information about childbirth and parenting and has been instrumental in achieving important legislative and policy changes in maternity care and been a strong advocate for the issues faced by families over the past 60 years. These changes are evident in our own experiences of birth and parenthood today. The first and probably most obvious one is the introduction of the first antenatal classes in 1959, which are now attended by tens of thousands of parents each year.

Better births

Then in the 1960s NCT led a campaign to allow fathers in the delivery room. It’s hard to believe that before then, it was widely accepted that fathers had no place at the birth of their own child.

In the 1980s, an NCT antenatal teacher pioneered the Know Your Midwife scheme in England which helped to shape changes in how midwives can make the greatest contribution to the health and wellbeing of women, babies and families. NCT has also continually lobbied government to change unnecessary interventions during birth, including changes in the mid-1980s to stop the shaving of pubic hair and administering enemas during childbirth. I didn’t know that either, but I’m bloody relieved!

You wouldn’t have been able to eat and drink during labour before NCT campaigned to change this. Pre-1980s, 40% of consultants banned women from ingesting food during the labour process.

Making policy work for women and families

And the list goes on. NCT has been instrumental in influencing laws and decisions regarding public breastfeeding, banning harmful BPA chemicals in baby bottles and access to food and milk vouchers for pregnant women under 18.

NCT helped set up Maternity Services Liaison Committees (now Maternity Voices Partnerships) across the UK to give a voice to women wanting to have a say in their birth experience. NCT also ran the Better Birth Environment campaign to make sure women in labour had freedom of movement, en suite bathroom facilities and provision for their partners to stay with them overnight. In addition to this, NCT contributed to Changing Childbirth and Maternity Matters, previous government strategies to allow women to have more control and choice over where they gave birth. They lobbied the government in 2010 to call for changes in maternity and paternity leave.

Next steps…

With all of this behind us, it’s only right that the #HiddenHalf campaign has become the latest success story in NCT’s amazing history. All of the changes that have taken place over the last 60 years started as ideas, thoughts and plans – perhaps just from one person or a small group and snowballed from there. The changes stemmed from people taking action and wanting to make things better so that others wouldn’t have to suffer.

 #HiddenHalf is now following in the footsteps of those NCT campaigners and supporters who have brought about real, tangible results which have affected the way we live today. Our campaigning can now be done through online promotion, surveys, social media hashtags, YouTube channels and emailing MPs. It can also be done through local events, sharing experiences and raising awareness in local communities.

The wave effect is a powerful one and #HiddenHalf has had an ocean of people behind it. It is thanks to all of these people – all of you who emailed, tweeted, shared and posted online, voiced your support at meetings, visited your local MP, held fundraising events, donated to the charity – all of these actions, small and large, have meant that NCT’s incredible legacy of supporting parents and fighting for change successfully continues.  NCT’s founder, Prunella Briance, is often quoted but her words ring particularly true as we celebrate the success of #Hiddenhalf: “I realised that someone had to do something, and so I did.” We all did. Thank you for helping to make #Hiddenhalf happen.

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