The Scottish Mail on Sunday
‘Scaremongers!’ Spina bifida charity hits out at midwives’ tongue-tie warnings to pregnant mums taking folic acid
MIDWIVES have been accused of ‘scaremongering’ for telling women that taking folic acid later in pregnancy raises the risk of tongue-tie in newborns.
There is no evidence that folic acid increases the likelihood of the condition, which makes breastfeeding difficult as the baby’s tongue is attached to the base of the mouth almost to its tip.
But it is known that if the mother is deficient in folic acid, a type of B vitamin, the risk of serious defects such as spina bifida is greatly increased. Nonetheless, midwives have taken it upon themselves to ignore official advice and ‘warn’ mothers-to-be about taking folic acid supplements after the first trimester.
Nurse Gill Yaz, of the spina bifida charity Shine, said she feared the number of women taking folic acid could drop if women got the false message it was harmful, adding: ‘Midwives should not be scaremongering and spreading rumours. It is so unhelpful.’
The rumour – apparently started by ‘Earth mother’ bloggers – has become a hot topic on parenting forums. But Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, said: ‘There is no scientific basis for stating that taking folic acid supplements from around 12 weeks causes tongue-tie.’
Campaigners fear the misinformation could have serious consequences.
Only a third of women take folic acid while trying to get pregnant, despite official NHS advice stating women should take 400 micrograms of it daily while trying to conceive, until 12 weeks pregnant.
The poor uptake results in thousands of babies being born every year with ‘neural tube defects’ such as spina bifida, where the spine develops incorrectly, causing damage to the nervous system. Many now continue to take folic acid after 12 weeks, as part of a pregnancy multivitamin like Pregnacare. The NHS does not warn against this.
Journalist Kate Mansey, 36, from London, whose second child is due in August, said: ‘At 14 weeks, my midwife asked if I’d stopped taking folic acid as there was “some suggestion” it was linked to a rise in tongue-tie in newborns.
‘I was surprised a health professional would advise this.’
The Royal College of Midwives said those telling patients there was a link were acting outside official advice.