Prenatal Supplements: Over the Counter and Prescription

Almost all women will be told to take a prenatal supplement every day throughout her pregnancy. This multivitamin contains all of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to support a growing baby. Because it can be difficult to get everything you need through your diet, prenatal supplements can fill in the nutritional gaps and ensure that your body is getting what it requires.

Some doctors will merely remind you to take a prenatal supplement, while others may choose to write you a prescription. What is the difference? There are a few things that differentiate these two supplements, which may sway your decision.

The Cost

Depending on your insurance plan, one or the other of these options may be more cost-effective for you. Over the counter (OTC) supplements are as a general rule less costly, however many health plans will cover prescription supplements, which could bring the cost down to similar or less than the OTC choice. Check with your health plan to determine what your cost would be. If you can’t get your supplements covered, you may be able to use funds from a flexible spending account to pay for them. Check with your HR department or health plan. For many women, OTC supplements may be the more affordable choice, but that should be weighed against the other benefits of a prescription.

The Amounts of Certain Vitamins and Minerals

Prescription supplements, because they are more closely scrutinized by the FDA, can carry larger amounts of such important nutrients as folic acid and iron. This FDA examination may also mean the formulas are safer, although all supplements on the market must be approved by the FDA before hitting the shelves.

The Research

Prescription supplements are created and sold by large drug companies, who have the time and money to put in a great deal of research and improve their formula. Prescription supplements will have the latest approved and tested combinations and amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.

Tolerance of Supplements

Because of the higher amounts of vitamins and minerals, some women may find it difficult to tolerate prescription supplements. They may cause nausea or constipation. This does not happen as often with OTC supplements, as they contain smaller amounts of all of the ingredients. Still, some women have difficulty with OTC choices as well. The key to finding the right supplement for you is to try several options until you find one your body can tolerate. There is no point in continuing to take a supplement that is making you sick, whether prescription or OTC. If you are having trouble with your prescribed supplement, talk to your doctor before making the switch to OTC. There may be another prescription choice that is better for you and your baby.

Choosing an OTC Supplement

If you decide to go with an OTC supplement, choose one that is made by a well known company, and is approved by the FDA. Be wary of supplements that have not been tested or approved by the FDA, as there is no way of knowing whether the ingredients or their amounts are safe. This includes natural or herbal supplements. It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any supplement during your pregnancy.

There are pros and cons to both over the counter and prescription supplements, so work with your doctor to decide what is right for you and your particular situation. Every woman and every pregnancy is a little different, so what is right for one woman may not be right for another. With a little effort, you can find a supplement that works for you.

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