Iodine Deficiency During Pregnancy

4 min read

Iodine plays a crucial role when it comes to your metabolism and regulation of the thyroid gland. During pregnancy, iodine is an important nutrient needed for the development of your baby’s growing brain and nervous system. Brain damage and other intellectual disabilities can be caused by iodine deficiency. Stillbirth, miscarriage and preterm delivery have also been linked to lack of iodine in pregnancy.
Iodine deficiency

How Much Iodine Do I Need?

The daily requirement of iodine male, non pregnant women, for pregnancy and lactation are mentioned as under:

  • Adult female: the iodine requirement for adult female is 150- to 300 µg per day
  • Expectant women: They require a daily dose of 210-220 micrograms or mcg of iodine
  • Lactating or nursing mothers: They need around 290 micrograms of iodine per day

A maximum of 1100 mcg per day is considered safe. Though it is not required to consume the same amounts of iodine daily, yet the consumption should match the average over the course of months.

What Are The Sources Of Iodine?

Most of our iodine requirements are met by consuming iodized salts. The foods rich in iodine include vegetables, eggs, sea-foods, milk products and brewer’s cheese. Some sea foods do have more than the recommended amounts of iodine for regular consumption, so do avoid items such as kelp.
Here is a list of some common food items and their iodine content:

  • A cup of fat free yoghurt-87 mcg of iodine
  • 85 grams or 3 ounces of cod fish- 99 mcg of iodine
  • A cup of milk- 56 mcg of iodine
  • A medium sized baked skinned potato-60 mcg
  • 85 grams or 3 ounces of shrimp- 35 mcg of iodine
  • 85 grams or 3 ounces of turkey- 34 mcg of iodine
  • ½ cup of cooked beans-32 mcg of iodine
  • 57 grams or 2 ounces of mozzarella cheese-20 mcg
  • ½ cup of juicy strawberries-6 -7 mcg of iodine

Sources of iodine

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Iodine Deficiency?

Iodine deficiency does not have many sureshot symptoms, but because the metabolism is slow, you may experience the below signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Generalized weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Intolerance to weather changes

Mostly, a test is conducted to figure out if a person has iodine deficiency.

What Conditions Are Associated With Iodine Deficiency?

The daily requirement of iodine is increased during pregnancy due to high renal iodine losses, raised thyroid hormone production and iodine requirement by growing fetus. Iodine is a vital nutrient needed for proper functioning of your body and its deficiency is associated with following conditions, among others:

  • Goiter: Thyroid gland produces thyroxine hormone required for proper functioning of various life processes. In case of deficiency of iodine, the thyroxine hormone is not released in sufficient amount and result in swelling and hyperplasia of the gland. This is called as ‘goiter’.
    In mild forms of deficiency, the T3 or triiodothyronine level is raised and there is no rise in TSH level. The body converts more and more levothyroxine to T3 and in this situation, patients have goiter with low TSH level
  • Cretinism: Certain mental conditions or handicaps are curable and preventable to a large extent and cretinism is one of them.
    Cretinism is an iodine deficiency disorder characterized by deafness, squint, improper stance or gait, stunted growth, mental weakness, weak IQ (intelligence quotient) and hypothyroidism. The association of mentally challenged children and goitrous parents was first established by Paracelsus.
    The word ‘cretins; is derived from the French word ‘cretin des Alpes’ because the condition was very common in remote Alps valley. Cretinism is recognized as an intellectual disability by the World Health Organization
  • Fibrocystic breast changes: Scientists are of the opinion that iodine deficiency raises the estrogen sensitivity of the breast tissue. The breast changes caused by iodine deficiency are reversible and can be treated by providing adequate amount of iodine to the patient. The breast becomes tender, may develop cyst or fibrous tissue plaque
  • Pregnancy complications: Stillbirth, premature births, miscarriages and fetal goiter have also been associated with iodine deficiency in pregnancy. Lower thyroid hormones due to iodine deficiency can puts pregnant women at a higher risk of miscarriage
Should I Take Iodine Supplements To Meet My Iodine Needs?

The deficiency of iodine can be treated by taking iodized salt. Daily consumption of egg yolk, saltwater fishes, milk and iodized salt in food items can treat iodine deficiency in mild forms. Sea vegetables such as kelp, dulse, hijiki, etc. are also helpful in providing good amount of iodine. Most prenatal vitamins do not contain reliable amounts of iodine. In the age where most of us prefer processed food, it would be wise to check the labels as salt in processed foods is not always iodized.
However one has to be careful and avoid taking heavy amounts of iodine as its over-dosage can produce toxic results such as hyperthyroidism and elevates level of thyroxine in blood stream (hyperthyroxinemia).
Wolf-Chaikoff effect is seen with a single high dose of iodine. This condition is associated with short term repression of thyroid gland function.

What Risk Factors Can Make Me Vulnerable To Iodine Deficiency?

The risk factors that can make you vulnerable to iodine deficiency are:

  • Selenium deficiency k2
  • Low intake of dietary iodine
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiation exposure
  • Excessive intake of goitrogens such as calcium
  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Long use of oral contraceptive pills
  • Thiocyanates
  • Perchlorates

Iodine deficiency is a grave public health concern. The blessing in disguise is that it is preventable. Iodine is easily accessible to you when you cook and at the dinner table. Have a balanced diet and do check with your doctor if you suspect you have iodine deficiency.
Click here to read about hypothyroidism.

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