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Must I take folic acid and vitamin supplements daily throughout my pregnancy?

Daily folic acid and vitamin supplements are not compulsory during pregnancy, although they are good for expectant mothers, says Dr Ting Hua Sieng, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist practising at Parkway East Hospital.

Folic acid is a vitamin that can help prevent neural tube defects, which involve the incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord, among other benefits.

“If the pregnant mother is already eating a healthy balanced diet, she should have all the folic acid and vitamins she needs from her diet,” Dr Ting says.

However, expectant mothers often have poor appetites due to morning sickness and other problems. That’s when supplements become important.

The recommended dose of folic acid for pregnant women is 1mg daily, according to Dr Ting. However, taking more is not an issue as it is water-soluble and gets excreted in the urine, she says.

Unlike folic acid and vitamin C, vitamins A, D, E and K are not watersoluble.

One should not consume too much of these as the excess cannot be easily excreted through urine, she adds.

Is it true that I should avoid spicy food now as it may trigger early labour?

There is no evidence to show that eating a particular type of food will trigger labour, says Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, head and senior consultant at the inpatient service division of obstetrics and gynaecology at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

That said, eating healthily before conception and throughout pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby.

Good nutrition optimises the growth and development of your baby and, at the same time, safeguards your own health, he says.

Also, you don’t need to eat specific foods just before giving birth, says consultant clinical dietitian Nehal Kamdar.

You should continue to eat a balanced diet throughout your pregnancy. This means eating a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables for folic acid, vitamins A and C; fatty fish for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); milk and high-calcium foods like cheese and yoghurt; and meat like chicken for iron.

You’ll find all the food groups in “My Healthy Plate” – a visual tool designed by the Health Promotion Board (