Over-the-Counter Prenatal Vitamins
In many cases, over-the-counter prenatal vitamins can be just as beneficial as prescription prenatal vitamins. The main difference between the two types of prenatal vitamins is the amount of folic acid they contain. Also, non-prescription prenatal vitamins are typically very affordable (although some insurance companies may cover the cost of prescription prenatal vitamins).
Prenatal vitamins are available in both prescription-only and over-the-counter (non-prescription) forms. Contrary to popular belief, over-the-counter prenatal vitamins are not necessarily inferior to their prescription counterparts.
Usually, the biggest difference between over-the-counter and prescription prenatal vitamins is the dose of folic acid. Most prescription prenatal vitamins contain 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid, while over-the-counter prenatal vitamins 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 over-the-counter prenatal vitamins will contain 1 mg of folic acid in the future.
Some over-the-counter prenatal vitamins (especially those found in health food stores) may contain extra ingredients, such as herbs, that are not usually found in prescription prenatal vitamins. However, healthcare providers often recommend against these prenatal vitamins, as many herbs have not been shown to be safe for pregnant women.
For women who have insurance or Medicaid, a prescription prenatal vitamin may be preferred, as some (or all) of the cost may be covered by the insurance or Medicaid. Some of the newer prescription prenatal vitamins are rather expensive (some cost more than a dollar a day), while over-the-counter prenatal vitamins are usually very affordable.