Iodine in pregnancy

It has been noted for many years that Iodine is an essential micronutrient in pregnancy.

Severe iodine deficiency in the mother can lead to cretinism and mental retardation in the newborn.

World Health Organiziation has listed maternal iodine deficiency as a main cause of newborn brain impairment worldwide. The developing fetus is dependent on the mother’s thyroid hormone production for its brain development which in turn is dictated by natural dietary intake or supplementation of iodine. It is likely that low levels of maternal iodine consumption, especially in early pregnancy are associated with poor brain performances in their offspring.

A study in England followed up the children of over 1000 women who had their urinary iodine levels tested in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The study found that the children’s verbal, reading and IQ scores related to the mother’s iodine levels during her early pregnancy stage. Poorer childhood performances were associated with lower iodine measurements. (Lancet 2013;382:331-7)

Therefore it is recommended that all pregnant women should receive sufficient iodine in their diets by eating seafood or by taking iodine supplement of 150µg-220µg per day

Seafood – dietitians recommend two to three meals of seafood per week to get the beneficial fish oils.

Eating fish twice a week will also provide most adults with enough iodine to fulfill their average iodine requirement.

Bread – is now made using iodised salt in Australia. Organic breads and ‘no added salt’ breads are the only exceptions to this rule.

Seaweed (kelp), dairy products and eggs – provide additional dietary sources of iodine.

Some vegetables – may contain iodine, but only if they are grown in iodine-rich soils.