Iodine Deficiency and its Effects on Pregnancy

Iodine need of the body is increased by almost 50% during pregnancy. It is required at a stable level for the secretion of thyroid hormones that is further needed for normal growth and development of the foetus.

In the early stages of pregnancy, women are vulnerable to iodine deficiency as a heavy demand for thyroid hormones. In this hormonal production, the iodine reserve of the body is exhausted faster. So for them who had a borderline level of iodine, their level falls drastically leading to a deficiency.

What actually happens is- during gestation, the mother supplies an adequate amount of free T4 or thyroxine for the secretion of tri-iodothyronine or T3 by the foetal brain, which is needed for healthy neurodevelopment. This usually starts at the beginning of the second trimester of pregnancy. Since the foetal glands are underdeveloped and the flow of T3 is low, the mother’s glands need to overwork to compensate the foetal reserves. Low level of iodine in the mother’s diet during pregnancy thus causes a deficiency which further affects the foetus and retards its brain development. So, iodine deficiency during pregnancy often leads to severe consequences such as mental retardation or cretinism.

The risks of iodine deficiency during pregnancy are:

  • Neonatal and infant mortality
  • Cretinism
  • Dwarfism
  • Neurological defects
  • Intellectual disabilities

Systemic iodine monitoring is required, which can be done by conducting thyroid tests while you are contemplating pregnancy. Any anomalies of the thyroid levels T3, T4 and TSH suggest an iodine imbalance. Early treatments resolves this issue easily and helps you to have a healthy baby.

The recommended dose of iodine supplements during pregnancy is 250 mcg. Monitored administration of iodine prophylaxis should be given during pregnancy to those women who have iodine deficiency. An iodine enriched diet and iodine supplement during pregnancy is also prescribed, along with medicine to combat the situation and ensure a safe pregnancy. However, despite increasing the intake of iodized salt in the diet is recommended in almost all health care programs, it is not safe for pregnant women and lactating mothers to have excess salt, as salt has its own adverse effects.

Some of the natural sources of iodine are:

  • SeaVegetables- Kelp, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, and Wakame
  • Scallops
  • Cod
  • Yogurt
  • Shrimp
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Cranberries
  • Strawberries

If you are not too fond of the food mentioned above, an iodine rich dietary supplement can help to a great extent during pregnancy. You can consult with your doctor or your pharmacist to help you to choose ones that are specially meant for iodine supplements for pregnant women.


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