Prescription prenatal vitamins are supplements that need to be prescribed by a doctor, and they differ slightly from those purchased over-the-counter at the store. For example, most prescription prenatal vitamins contain more folic acid and iron than the nonprescription kind. Some types even include additional benefits, such as omega-3 fatty acids or stool softeners to help prevent constipation. Of course, these features can also be added to the diet through additional supplements, but taking one pill is often more convenient than having to take several. Unfortunately, some of the very benefits of prescription prenatal vitamins can cause nausea in some women since there are so many minerals in them.
While there is no research that claims that prescription prenatal vitamins are definitively better than nonprescription supplements, there are some obvious benefits. For instance, many prescription pills contain more folic acid, which is crucial in preventing spinal cord defects, such as spina bifida. Over-the-counter pills usually contain less than 800 mcg of folic acid, while the prescription kinds typically have 1000 mcg, or 1 mg. Of course, some over-the-counter supplements have begun to include 1 mg of folic acid, as well. Additionally, it is considered fine to take a supplement that just contains folic acid, along with regular prenatal vitamins.
Another nutrient that some prescription prenatal vitamins have more of is iron, though of course an additional iron supplement can also be taken to make up for the iron missing from any prenatal vitamin. Some prescription prenatal supplements also include stool softeners to combat the constipation that often comes along with pregnancy. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids have become a popular feature to add to prescription prenatal vitamins, as they are known for helping brain development. Similar to the other added nutrients, though, it is possible to take a separate supplement to get this same benefit while taking nonprescription prenatal pills.
Despite the fact that most added benefits of prescription pills can be obtained from separate supplements, some women still prefer the prescription kind simply because they may be cheaper. This is only the case when insurance pays for all or most of the vitamin, of course. Otherwise, it is usually cheaper to buy generic over-the-counter vitamins. On the other hand, some women find that they cannot take prescription prenatal vitamins because they are so strong that they induce nausea and vomiting. In such cases, doctors may recommend over-the-counter vitamins instead, especially since the majority of them have all the necessary minerals for a healthy pregnancy.