28 answers

Prescription Prenatal vs over the counter...are They Really That Different?

Hi moms! I went to SAMS yesterday to fill my prenatal and iron prescriptions and was floored when I had to pay $100 for the two pills. I couldn't believe it when the pharmacist said my insurance only covered about $10. This time last year I was only paying about $35 total for both prescriptions.
So, my question to you all is, are over the counter prenatal pills as good as the expensive prescription ones? We are on a budget and I would rather put away $100 a month for baby than spend it on the expensive pills I could do without. I have always switched to the less expensive vitamins while I am breastfeeding. I can't imagine the over the counter stuff being that inferior to the prescription strength vitamins, but I could be wrong. The last thing I want is to hurt my baby in any way or deprive him of the vital nutrients he needs during development.
Thanks so much ladies! Have a beautiful weekend!

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Featured Answers

Pre-natal vitamins made me horribly sick to the point of near dehydration with both of my pregnancies. My OB/GYN had me take 2 Flinstone chewables every day instead, and my children were none the worse for it.

I never took the prescription prenatals, they always upset my stomache. I have always taken the over the counter prenatal vitamins, which don't upset my stomache. I would say the over the counters may have additional or more of something in them, thus the reason they upset my stomache, but my doctor never had a problem with me using over the counter.

Hope this helps!

L.

I have had 3 healthy babies and have always gotten mine from Vitacost.com. They have great prices and superior vitamins.

More Answers

From my knowledge, you have to be concerned with a few levels of vital nutrients that are important to a pregnant woman. Folic acid, iron, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Calcium are the big four which are dosed at a different level for pregnant women. As long as the vitamin you will be taking can meet the criteria that your OB/GYN has for these nutrients, you do not have to take prescription pre-natal vitamins. There are over-the-counter brands that do supply the needed requirements for pregnant women. Just run it by your OB/GYN and make sure they approve.

1 mom found this helpful

not really. The March of Dimes crusade is to push the importance of folic acid for pregnant women, as it hinders defects. Hold on to your prescription bottle and compare it to the OTC varieties next time you shop. Also, some regular breakfast cereals are packed w/folic acid as well as many vitamins, just in case you want a boost to your vitamins. Was so sick my 1st pregnancy-I had chewable prenatals and loved cereal!

1 mom found this helpful

If you stay the Rx route, check with your doctor and the pharmacy about a different one or a generic. It can make a big difference in cost. Also some of them may be on the $4 ones at Walmart or Target. Unrelated a little, but when I worked in a vet's office we had to send a script to a pharmacy, the owner called and it was $1000, after talking to the pharmacist we could use a difference dosage and change the number of pills and it was $30.

Please don't waste your money on the Rx. And don't let anyone make you feel bad by buying the otc pills. They're silly if they think it's better for you.

My OB said that prescription is absolutely no better than OTC and that if my insurance didn't cover it, just buy OTC. She also said that I didn't have to take extra iron unless my count was down and it wasn't. Also, she was totally fine with me taking a regular multi-mineral/multi-vitamin and an extra folic acid pill. She said they were even better because there were more vits and mins than a basic prenatal has!
You won't hurt your baby by buying OTC :)

I dont know if there is a difference, but ask your doc for samples, mine gave me a month worth of samples and a coupon for 3 free months. He also said let him know when those run out and he would give me another coupon. I have to take iron also and it was going to be $38 for one month, the pharmacist told me I could take otc iron and it would be just fine.

Pre-natal vitamins made me horribly sick to the point of near dehydration with both of my pregnancies. My OB/GYN had me take 2 Flinstone chewables every day instead, and my children were none the worse for it.

Nature's Plus make a really good Mega PreNatal and its relatively inexpensive compared to others that I've seen. You can get it at Sun Harvest.

I took OTC prenatels with my first two babies, as the RX made me very ill. They turned out just fine. I am taking RX ones this time, because they didn't make me sick, and my insurance is much better this time around, so the generic form is cheaper than OTC. Plus, my dr gave me samples at almost every visit.
Either way, you'll be fine, and so will your baby.

I would check with the pharmacist - I use to buy the entire bottle of prescription prenatal vitamins (100 pills) for less than 3 mos. worth. Also, does your insurance do mail order? Our insurance will not cover maintenance drugs unless we do mail order. I have been told that OTC prenatal vitamins are just as good (dr. said this) and was not given a prescription for iron, just told to pick up OTC kind.

all the rx vitamins made me nauseas.. so I took a centrum.. my dr said it was fine.. but centrum does not have as much iron.. or folic acid..

I had plenty of iron.. and folic acid really matters in the first trimester..

you can buy cheap supplements for extra iron and folic acid.

Updated

all the rx vitamins made me nauseas.. so I took a centrum.. my dr said it was fine.. but centrum does not have as much iron.. or folic acid..

I had plenty of iron.. and folic acid really matters in the first trimester..

you can buy cheap supplements for extra iron and folic acid.

I would check your local pharmacy ours does free prenatal pills. By using this option it does have to be prescription. The good part is that they can add the extra whatever you need and it is all free! I would check into this. I know Walgreens and CVS do not offer this, but our grocery store pharmacy does.

Best of luck the are expensive, but when it comes to your baby you sound like most mama's and will foot the cost to help your baby.

I have had 3 children and researched both RX and OTC. Most of the RX made me sick so that is why I started researching: the ingredients in the RX has to be a certain amount but they are not as natural or as absorbable as some of the natural OTC. I would not take just any OTC off of the shelf but there are a few brands out there in the healthfood stores that I would definitely prefer over RX. You have to make sure you are getting enough folic acid and iron but nutrients derived from a natural mineral enriched source are always better than a chemical processed source.

YES! THEY ARE DIFFERENT!

While the components are the same, and while any prenatal is better than none, there is a difference in the grade of ingredients and the oversight from the FDA.

I've only used prenatals that were Rx at the urging of my OB/GYN 5 years ago during my first pregnancy. I still take them because one of our local pharmacies offers them free. I would ask your local pharmacies (bigger chains much more likely to offer them) if they have free Rx prenatal vitamins.

The ones that are available OTC only have to register with the FDA but do not have to submit any clinical data showing that they're as effective as Rx products.

Hope that helps.
If you have the financial means (and I'd really ask what the difference in $ is), I'd always select the Rx - when it comes to your baby's health and development, it's worth it.

I asked that of my OB and he said to stick with the prescription because the nutrients in the pill and the amount of each are federally regulated. OTC don't have them same requirements.

The obstetrician I used to work for said anything that said it was a pre-natal vitamin had to contain minimum amounts of specific vitamins and minerals, thus prescription ones were not necessary. I can't imagine that any prenatal vitamin is worth $100/month! I'm not sure I would buy "generic" OTC pre-natals, but going with a name OTC one would be just fine. We all want to do the best for our babies, but I don't think it needs to bankrupt us.

Do you have a Market Street near you? They provide free pre-natals. The vitamins don't have DHA in them, but you can buy that for $10 for a 30 day supply.

ask if they have it in a generic. some times the off brand name is cheaper and the insurance will cover that one. and yes the prescriptions ones are more intence than the over the counter ones. ask your dr. to give you some samples of different ones. i got enough samples it lasted me a month or two before i had to pay for the off brand ones. congrats and good luck.

I would also talk with the Dr. and find out if there are any other kinds that are not a expensive and that are covered by your insurance.

I, like you, have always switched to the over-the-counter vitamins once the baby was born and I was nursing. I usually started out with the over-the-counter too for the first weeks until I got to the OB with each kid. I had horrible nausea in the first trimester with all of mine, but I also caught 3 stomach viruses on top of that during the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy with my 3rd. I was subsisting on gatorade and at week 14 weighed 10 lbs less than I had when I got pregnant. I was told by my OB that if I needed to ditch the vitamins to minimize the impact to my stomach to keep food down that that was more important. She reminded me that there were plenty of healthy pregnancies long before the existence of prenatal vitamins, to just watch my diet and be sure to eat healthy and there really would be no need for vitamins at all. I kept taking the vitamins in general, but on iffy stomach days I skipped them. Given that, I think that your baby will thrive just fine on the over the counter ones! Congrats on your new bundle of joy!

Get samples from your doc. I asked the same exact question about a month ago and got lots of good answers, but they were very mixed. It looks like the prescrption is best.

I have had 3 healthy babies and have always gotten mine from Vitacost.com. They have great prices and superior vitamins.

There is a difference. The difference is OTC vitamins are not regulated by the FDA. OTC vitamins are not tested. They do not check their batches to make sure everything that is listed ont the bottle is in every pill. You may have too much or not enough of any particular vitamin. Also, many put a coating on it so it is easier to swallow, or doesn't taste as bad. Some cause them to not dissolve correctly in your gut and your body does not absorb the nutrients.

But, you do not have to pay those ridiculous prices for your prenatals! Go to your chiropractor, or even your medical doc, and ask him to order you prenatals from Anabolic Laboratories or Metagenics. At the clinic where I work, a bottle of prenatal multis from Anabolic will cost $38 for a two month supply! Metagenics is a bit more.

I never took the prescription prenatals, they always upset my stomache. I have always taken the over the counter prenatal vitamins, which don't upset my stomache. I would say the over the counters may have additional or more of something in them, thus the reason they upset my stomache, but my doctor never had a problem with me using over the counter.

Hope this helps!

L.

I used otc, my doctor said there was no real differecnce, plus my nutritionist recomended a lot of cereals that provided 60%-100% of your daily folic acid intake. because you need to remember that when you take vitamins your body is only absorbing 30-40% of it so if a vitmin says it will give you 100% of something you are not really getting 100% because our bodies don't absorb it as well as nutrients from food.

I just had this discussion with my doc the other day. Turns out there is a difference in the amount of iron in the pills. He said though that every time I go in they check my iron levels so if there is an iron shortage they will just recommend a supplement. Another option, which is the route I chose was to get a prescription for a different vitamin. The prices can range anywhere from $10 to over $100 so I had them prescribe one of the less expensive ones. There is very little difference between scripts with the exception of different pills you want to add, such as DHA and flavors and such that you may want.

Good luck and congrats!

My dr is super big on prescription prenatals during pregnancy and like you I switch to the regular stuff during breastfeeding. Mine were about $40, so maybe you could just talk to your dr about prescribing you a less expensive one. My dr says that the otc pills are not regulated by the FDA so they are potentially not as good. Good luck and congrats!

From my own research, the main difference between prescription and OTC vitamin supplements is oversight by a third party such as the FDA. You definitely have a lot more choices in OTC vitamins in terms of ingredients used, dosage, absorption, etc...you just have to trust the company that makes it.

I used the prenatal recommeded by my midwife called Prenatal Forte by NF Laboratories. I now take a prenatal by New Chapter Organics (not pregnant, just like its absorption rate...and doesn't make me burp like crazy). Just because something has 100% of the RDA doesn't mean you'll absorb all of that.

Even though they have to be taken several times a day, I like the results from a low-dose vitamin. They don't give me heartburn and I FEEL better when I take them on a regular basis.

I opted against an iron supplement...my tests didn't reveal a need for it and I made an effort to get extra iron in my diet naturally.

A good quality OTC can cost nearly as much as what you're paying...depending on the dosing instructions. So cost shouldn't be your primary motivation. Whatever you decide, inform your doctor so that you're both on the same page.

Also, my midwife would have written me a prescription so that insurance would pay...which is a major reason it is done. Most insurance won't cover any OTC vitamins.

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