When you find out your pregnant, your "to do" list suddenly triples in size, but even if you're feeling awful, there are some things on that list that do need booking pretty far in advance, and NCT classes are among them.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is a nonprofit organisation that offers up all kinds of resources for parents-to-be, but it's perhaps most famous for its antenatal and postnatal courses. Split into a number of classes, they give prospective parents some of the tools they need to deal with childbirth and the days that follow. The focus is mostly on preparing for labour and birth, but there's also a breastfeeding session and an open forum for discussion and sharing concerns. As well as helping prospective parents learn more about childbirth, NCT courses are popular because they offers parents a lifeline in their local area: they're a great way to meet other expectant parents who live nearby, and many NCT parents end up hanging out with each other (and their kids) long after the courses are over.
Though the NCT is a charity, its courses do come at a price: the signature antenatal course can cost more than £300, depending on where you live. But if you're a first-time parent, or you live in an area where you don't have a strong support network of family and friends, it can be invaluable, and as the NCT is a charity, they do offer reductions in fees depending on your circumstances. However, you'll need to act fast. Though most courses won't take place until the last couple of months of your pregnancy, they fill up fast. If you're interested in booking an NCT course, start looking into this right after your 12-week scan. I didn't realise how quickly I needed to act, and when I finally came to book mine at 16 weeks, I snagged the last spot on the course!
If you're unable to afford NCT classes or you leave it too late to book and miss out, don't panic. Though NCT classes can be useful, they are in no way necessary. You can still get help and support, and meet other parents, in other ways. Speak to your midwife about the opportunities that are available through the NHS: there are usually free sessions held at local hospitals or maternity units that cover many of the same topics as the NCT courses. Plus, your midwives and GP are there to answer your questions at any point, so don't be afraid to pick up the phone if you're panicking.