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Adequate iodine intakes are critical during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Published on

11 January 2013

Researchers raise the alarm that iodine intakes in the US are decreasing, which has the potential to negatively impact the mother and unborn child.

In a new publication, US researchers discuss the growing issue of iodine deficiency in pregnant women in the U.S. and the potential negative health implications for both mothers and their children from this deficiency (1). It is time for all healthcare professionals to make sure that every pregnant and breast-feeding woman gets supplemental iodine during pregnancy and while they are breastfeeding, they say. There is concern that even mild iodine deficiency in pregnant women could lead to children with lower IQs. Other risks of iodine deficiency include maternal and fetal goiter and increased pregnancy loss and infant mortality.

Iodine, which is not naturally made in the human body, must be consumed through iodine-rich foods or through supplements. The trace element is required for the production of thyroid hormone, critical for normal fetal neurodevelopment. National and international health organizations currently recommend that pregnant women take at least 150 micrograms of potassium iodide daily. Guidelines from the American Thyroid Association, Endocrine Society and Teratology Society have recommended daily iodine supplements for women in the U.S. who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy. However, these recommendations have not been widely adopted and many prenatal multivitamins sold do not contain iodine. Previous studies have shown that approximately only 20 percent of women in the U.S. take supplements with iodine. Iodine deficiency remains the leading cause of preventable mental retardation worldwide. The researchers hope to start a discussion in the healthcare community on how to better protect the health of mothers and their children.


  1. Stagnaro-Green A. et al. Iodine supplementation during pregnancy and lactation. JAMA. 2012; 308(23):2463-2464.

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