The government here in NZ has just announced that it will subsidise Iodine supplements for pregnant woman. When I was pregnant with my kids(less than three years ago) I was aware it was important to ensure you were getting good amounts of Folic Acid, Iron and Calcium but had not heard about the importance of Iodine.

What are the risks to an unborn child if the mother has an Iodine deficiency?

asked 07 Jul '10, 04:43

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

+1, Good question!

(07 Jul '10, 05:44) Neen

I remember learning at some point in school (most likely an Undergarduate Biology course) that Iodine was added to salt (at least in Canada) to prevent goitre after it was noticed that people living in iodine rich areas (I assume more iodine in the soil?) were less likely to get the disease.

This source discusses why iodine is important:

The chief store-house of iodine in the body is the thyroid gland. The essential thyroxine, which is secreted by this gland, is made by the circulating iodine. Thyroxine is a wonder chemical which controls the basic metabolism and oxygen consumption of tissues. It increases the heart rate as well as urinary calcium excretion. Iodine regulates the rate of energy production and body weight and promotes proper growth. It improves mental alacrity and promotes healthy hair, nails, skin, and teeth.

and the recommended daily dose, which they suggest should be increased during pregnancy.

The recommended dietary allowances are 130 mcg. per day for adult males and 100 mcg. per day for adult females. An increase to 125 mcg. per day during pregnancy and to 150 mcg. per day during lactation has been recommended. Deficiency can cause goitre and enlargement of the thyroid glands.

The following article from the journal Gynecological Endocrinology speaks specifically to why iodine is important in pregnancy:

During pregnancy sufficient quantities of iodine are required to prevent the appearance of hypothyroidism, trophoblastic and embryonic or fetal disorders, neonatal and maternal hypothyroidism, and permanent sequelae in infants.


answered 07 Jul '10, 12:59

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦
accept rate: 18%


As a side note, I heard just recently that some in the US are concerned about iodine deficiency becoming more common. Iodine typically isn't added to the salt found in processed foods, which account for much of the salt consumed, nor in more gourmet salts.

(08 Jul '10, 19:44) Kiesa ♦

@Kiesa: I've read similar about iodine deficiency becoming more common due to our less use of household iodised salt

(11 Jul '10, 13:30) Lin

+1 for a great question! I was actually just recently reading about this when I was doing some research on tandem breastfeeding...

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has put out this public statement on iodine supplementation for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Iodine deficiency is of particular concern during pregnancy because abnormal function of the mother’s thyroid has a negative impact on the nervous system of the unborn baby, and increases the risk of infant mortality. Adverse effects on early brain and nervous system development are generally irreversible and can have serious implications for mental capacity in later life.

recommended daily intake:

NHMRC and the New Zealand Ministry of Health recommend that women who are pregnant have 220μg of iodine per day. Women who are breastfeeding should have 270μg per day.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends women who are pregnant or breastfeeding take a daily oral iodine supplement so that the total daily intake is 250μg


answered 11 Jul '10, 13:26

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accept rate: 10%

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Asked: 07 Jul '10, 04:43

Seen: 3,984 times

Last updated: 11 Jul '10, 13:26