An Overview of Over-the-Counter 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.
Prescription vs. Over-the-Counter Prenatal Vitamins
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.
Cost and Insurance Issues With Prenatal Vitamins
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.