Pregnancy Home > Prescription Prenatal Vitamins

The biggest difference between non-prescription and prescription prenatal vitamins is the amount of folic acid that they contain. Typically, most prescription formulas contain 1 mg of folic acid, while non-prescription formulas usually contain less (around 800 mcg).

An Overview of Prescription Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are vitamin and mineral supplements that are specifically designed for pregnant women. Many different types of prenatal vitamins are currently on the market. Some are only available with a prescription, while others can be purchased over-the-counter (see Over-the-Counter Prenatal Vitamins). There are a few minor differences between non-prescription and prescription prenatal vitamins.

Prescription vs. Non-Prescription Prenatal Vitamins

Usually, the biggest difference between the two is the dose of folic acid. Most prescription prenatal vitamins contain 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid, while non-prescription formulas usually contain less (typically 800 mcg). Until recently, products (including prenatal vitamins) with 1 mg or more of folic acid could only be obtained with a prescription. However, this rule has been changed, and it is possible that non-prescription formulas will contain 1 mg of folic acid in the future.
Some prescription prenatal vitamins also contain stool softeners (such as docusate sodium) to help relieve or prevent constipation, and some contain higher doses of iron (for women prone to iron-deficiency anemia). A current trend among the manufacturers of prescription prenatal vitamins is to include omega-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), although this trend is starting to show up in a few nonprescription versions as well.

Cost and Insurance Issues With Prenatal Vitamins

For most women, prenatal vitamins obtained with a prescription are probably not significantly better than a good nonprescription formula. However, for women who have insurance or Medicaid, a prescription version may be preferred, as some (or all) of the cost may be covered. Some of the newer prescription prenatal vitamins are rather expensive (some cost more than a dollar a day), although generic versions are generally quite affordable.
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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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