Prescription Prenatal Vitamins
When it comes to vitamins, we often think that prescription vitamins are superior to OTC simply because your doctor prescribed them. The truth is that just because they are prescription does not mean that they are better. No vitamin is FDA approved because vitamins are categorized as “medical food” by the FDA. There are, however, United States Pharmacopoeia standards for prescription vitamins. This means that they must meet certain quality and content standards to become prescription vitamins. However, a study of prescription prenatal vitamins conducted by the University of Maryland at Baltimore, School of Pharmacy, only 3 out of 9 prescription prenatal vitamins were found to release the amount of folic acid that they claimed to contain. If your prescription prenatal vitamin doesn’t give you all the folic acid you need (folic acid is a vital nutrient for pregnancy), then how can you trust it to provide the other nutrients it promises?
The main difference in prescription and OTC prenatal vitamins is the amount of folic acid. Most OTC vitamins have 400 mcg of folic acid, while prescriptions have 1,000 mcg. The recommended dose of folic acid for pregnancy is 400 mcg. Prescription prenatals simply provide more than enough folic acid (assuming that it actually releases as much as it claims). Iron is the other ingredient that differs with OTC vs. prescription prenatal vitamins. Most prescription prenatals contain a high dose of iron, which is often hard on a woman’s stomach. Some OTC prenatals contain no iron as a way to reduce nausea related to the supplement. Iron is important, but a woman can reduce her iron intake during the first trimester to alleviate nausea and morning sickness.
Promise Prenatal vitamins are not prescription vitamins, yet they are manufactured to the same high standards (USP) as prescription vitamins. There are three formulas: before pregnancy through the first trimester; second and third trimesters; and after pregnancy/breastfeeding. The formulas are designed to accommodate the nutritional needs of women at each stage. Stage one contains less iron to reduce nausea. The iron is a micro-encapsulated form of ferrous fumarate which slows the absorption and reduces nausea.
Prenatal vitamins should contain a low amount of Vitamin A (which can cause birth defects if too much is consumed during the first trimester). Calcium is an essential nutrient for pregnancy, but no prenatal will contain the entire recommended daily intake. You should talk with your doctor to see if you are getting enough calcium from your diet.
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