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During pregnancy iodine is a very important part of your diet. In general you should be eating a healthy, varied diet according to the food pyramid, with a special awareness about some of the most vital nutrients that your body needs at this time. Please refer to our feature: Pregnancy diet and nutrition essentials to ensure you understand these basics. This iodine in pregnancy article walks you through the basics, information from the World Health Organisation, the role it plays in pregnancy and food sources where you can find it.

1. What is Iodine?

There is quite a history behind the vital element, iodine. All aspects of our lives require iodine, which is a water-soluble trace element, that you may remember from your school days, on the periodic table- a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53.

2. Iodine in pregnancy & health - did you know?

iodine pregnancy food sources eggs

Did you know that iodine deficiency is actually a global health issue? The WHO (World Health Organization) has estimated that over 2 billion people could be suffering from an iodine deficiency. WHO has estimated that one quarter of these people, 50 million, are actually suffering from serious symptoms, such as brain damage.

At one stage this was a rare issue in the western world, but these days the imbalance is on the increase. One of the reasons for this is changes in soil quality, due to the way agriculture is nowadays in comparison to how it used to be. Modern agricultural methods have resulted in a lack of minerals in the soil. We now have poor iodine content in foods, due to these practices and environmental pollutants.

3. Iodine deficiencies can cause the following:

An iodine deficiency will have a different effect on different people, however here are some of the concerning diseases that have been linked to it.

– Mental retardation – can occur in extreme cases, but it more likely to be seen in the offspring of mothers who suffered from an iodine deficiency:

– Fetal hypothyroidism – this is improper thyroid functioning in unborn children, which can lead to brain damage

– Other mental imbalances such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks

– Goiter, which is thyroid enlargement

– Autism

– In some studies iodine deficiency has also been linked to breast cancer

– Higher risk of miscarriage

– Higher risk of pre-term delivery

– Higher risk of stillbirth

iodine for pregnancy fish food sources

4. Iodine in pregnancy

Iodine is absolutely essential for your baby’s developing nervous system and brain, as well as regulating her metabolism. For Mum, iodine plays a central role in regulating your thyroid gland. When this is not well regulated, as mentioned above, there is a higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and pre-term delivery.

Iodine is crucial for normal brain function. In Ireland it can only be found in a small selection of foods, with fish and dairy foods being key sources of iodine.

5. Sources of iodine

Of course table salt is iodised in many countries, although in Ireland this isn’t the case across the board, but iodised table salt also comes with a number of chemical additives and has been through a host of processes. Sea salt on the other hand is more natural, yet you won’t get enough iodine from this alone, coupled with the fact that it isn’t healthy to overdo your salt intake.

Healthier sources of iodine, that can make up part of your healthy, varied pregnancy diet are eggs, dairy products, seafood and vegetables. Of course levels of iodine vary depending on the origin of the food source, the processes involved and the quality of the soil and/or water, where relevant.

The amount of iodine in many types of food varies according to the amount of iodine in the area’s soil or water.

Recommended intake of iodine in pregnancy

130 mg per day

Good food sources of iodine include:

– Milk

– Dairy products

– 100g of red salmon will give you half the iodine you require for that day

– Tinned sardines

– Tinned mackerel

– Tinned tuna

– Shrimp (obviously very well cooked, never raw or under cooked)

– Cod

– Eggs

– Sea vegetables

– – Turkey breast

– Baked potato

Don’t forget that fish is also a good source of vitamin B12. This aids in normal red blood cell formation, and reduces fatigue and tiredness.

6. Excessive iodine during pregnancy

There have been studies that have revealed health problems caused by excessive iodine during pregnancy. In these cases, we are mostly talking about women who were taking pre-natal vitamins and also deriving iodine from dietary sources. This study which we refer to here is such an example, and these women were getting 11 times the recommended dose of iodine.

Although the average pregnant woman doesn’t need to be especially concerned with this, it is good to have an awareness. If you are taking any supplements, be sure to talk this over with your medical team.

Click on Nutrition in Pregnancy to see our range of articles.


All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.