Is there a difference between prescription and over the counter prenatal vitamins? What is so special about the prenatal vitamins your midwife or OB has prescribed? In short- there doesn’t have to be a difference between prescription and over the counter prenatal vitamins. Manufacturers are allowed to sell everything contained in a prenatal vitamin over the counter. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of buying your vitamins over the counter. You should be aware of the differences so you can make an informed decision.
Selection to Choose From
When you buy your prenatal vitamins over the counter you can get whatever you want and you are in control. You can select the gummy variety if those are easier to handle. You can choose vegan or organic vitamins. Over the counter vitamins come in whatever quantity you prefer and you can reorder as often as you like. You will see that over the counter the options are endless. Some vitamins you take twice a day. For some people, that may be easier to digest. For others this becomes a nuisance and the once a day formulations are easier to remember.
Price of Prenatal Vitamins
Price is important. Even though each pill may only cost less than a dollar, when you add it up it can be expensive. Consider that you may be taking prenatal vitamins for years. You begin prenatal 3 months before ttc, then while ttc, for 9 months of pregnancy and then up to a year while breastfeeding. You can see how the cost can quickly add up. Sometimes the price comes out cheaper with a prescription. Many insurance companies will cover a portion (or all) of the cost of your prenatal vitamins. You may want to call your insurance company and find out which prenatal vitamins they cover and what you would have to pay.
On the other hand, if you decide to take over the counter vitamins you can search online to find the cheapest price for what you want. You also don’t need to pay to see a doctor. That will save you co-pays. However, it is important to see a doctor or midwife for your preconception visit. So you will likely need to make a visit anyway.
With over the counter vitamins you don’t need to wait to see a provider, but you also don’t need to deal with a pharmacy. With a prescription you need to order refills, wait for the pharmacy to fill your prescription, sometimes wait in line to pick it up. Buying vitamins over the counter is as simple as buying a pack of gum if you know what you are looking for.
Quality of the Prenatal Vitamins
Not all vitamins are created equal. If you aren’t using a prescription you will need to do a little research to make sure that what you are buying has what you need, but not too much.
Additionally, sometimes over the counter brands can cut corners. They can use cheaper sources of vitamins. For example, prescription vitamin D is primarily D3 (cholecalciferol). The body more easily absorbs D3. Most over the counter vitamins contains D2 (ergocalciferol), which is also a source of Vitamin D, but is not as readily absorbed by the body. You can find D3 in over the counter prenatal vitamins, but you have to look for it.
Fortunately I’ve done the research to come up with a list of 9 essential components for your prenatal vitamins.