Importance of iodine during pregnancy and lactation

Iodine is an essential mineral for the development of the nervous system of the fetus and the thyroid synthesis of the mother. Find out what other benefits this micronutrient provides.

Last update: 20 March, 2022

Consume iodine during pregnancy and lactation it is necessary for the hormonal function of the pregnant woman, the growth of the fetus and their brain development. Mineral deficiency is associated with consequences such as thyroid imbalance and low IQ.

In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) mentions that iodine deficiency is the most frequent and preventable cause of mental deficiency. For both the newborn and the mother, there are long-term benefits if the diet includes the micronutrient plus iron, zinc, folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins, as indicated by the Spanish Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.

Reasons to consume iodine during pregnancy and lactation

The University Clinic of Navarra states that iodine It is a fundamental trace element in the synthesis of thyroid hormones.. The substance also influences the metabolism of cells, transforming food into energy.

In pregnancy, the mineral is key to the formation of the baby’s organs. And in the breastfeeding stage, it collaborates with the adequate nutrition of the child, while the transition to solid foods takes place.

the publication Obstetrics and gynecology progress adds that during pregnancy more iodine should be consumed, since renal excretion of women increases and a part is derived from the placenta to the fetus. Why else is it important to consume iodine?

Regulates bodily functions

This element is relevant for the regulation of functions such as body temperature. In addition, It has a particular impact on heart rate. The Spanish Journal of Cardiology states that the correct operation of the endocrine system is essential for cardiovascular health.

Avoid hypothyroidism

Iodine deficiency could cause hypothyroidism, due to the decrease in the biological activity of thyroid hormones at the tissue level, as clarified by the Spanish Society of Pediatric Endocrinology. In the case of primary congenital hypothyroidism, there is little clinical expression in neonates. Over time, among other characteristics, the following are manifested:

  • Apathy.
  • extreme fatigue
  • Weight gain.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Persistent constipation.
  • Memory decline.
  • Basal body temperature reduction.
The thyroid gland always needs iodine for proper function, but during pregnancy this need increases.

Minimizes the risk of hypothyroxinemia

The lack of iodine in the body of a pregnant woman could trigger hypothyroxinemia. It is an anomaly that appears when the concentration levels of thyroxine (T4) are below the normal range, argues Pediatric Endocrinology.

For the fetus, the repercussions of hypothyroxinemia are negative in terms of intellectual and psychomotor development.



Reduces the chance of miscarriage

A newsletter article Endocrinology and Nutrition refers to epidemiological work showing that severe iodine deficiency increases the rates of infertility and abortions, neonatal mortality, of congenital deformities and low birth weight.

Prevents cretinism and goiter

Cretinism is a type of intellectual and physical disability. Sometimes caused by a lack of iodine in pregnancy and lactation, which impairs the function of thyroid hormone. The disease shows delayed intelligence and bodily malformations.

For its part, goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. The swelling becomes visible in the neck.



Foods that contain iodine

The mother transmits the micronutrient to the child when she breastfeeds. Although there are pharmacy supplements, the best way to consume iodine is through a healthy diet.

Seasoning foods with iodized salt is an alternative. Incorporate foods such as ocean fish and shellfish, low-fat milk and yogurt, cream of corn, wheat bran cereal, dried plums, apple juice, eggs, and enriched bread into your menu .

It is not about not consuming them, but there are foods with little iodine and you should take them into account:

  • Fruit.
  • Fresh spices.
  • Salt-free pasta.
  • Pretzels.
  • Rice.
  • Honey.
Fish can be a healthy source of iodine, but cooking during pregnancy should be considered and fish species with little risk of accumulating heavy metals should be considered.

Check labels to avoid nitrates found in fresh meats, bacon, and hot dogs, as they hinder iodine absorption.

What is the adequate amount of iodine during pregnancy and lactation?

The Office of Dietary Supplements, belonging to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), points out that the amount of iodine that the body needs daily depends on age. For pregnant women the recommended value is 220 micrograms and for lactating women it is 290 micrograms.

Once the child is switched to complementary nutrition, the consumption of iodized foods should continue, in addition to breast milk. Both the gynecologist and the pediatrician will prescribe, if the case warrants it, a supplement with the mineral.

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