Facts & Recommendations
Iodine is an essential micronutrient which helps our body maintaining a variety of functions.
The best natural sources of iodine are saltwater fish, seafood and seaweeds. Other sources are dairy products and eggs, as well as iodised table salt.
Iodine is a vital mineral our body needs to produce thyroid hormones. These hormones, mainly T3 (tri-iodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), control the growth and the development of all organs, the nervous system, the brain, the muscles and the skeleton.
Iodine acts as a key factor in the programming of foetal and infant neurodevelopment.
Furthermore, iodine contributes to maintain your skin healthy and to regulate the energy balance.
Iodine in pregnancy
Pregnancy is associated with major modifications in thyroid function resulting from hormonal changes. More thyroid hormones are needed, thus more are produced (approximately 50% increase at the beginning of the pregnancy), which implies that maternal iodine intake must be adequately increased.
The foetus’s thyroid gland starts to produce its own hormones from as early as the 12th week of gestation. These thyroid hormones play an essential role in the development of the foetal brain and nervous system. The foetus’s ability to produce thyroid hormones solely depends on the intake of iodine in its mother’s diet.
Furthermore, the iodine requirements remain increased during lactation as the mother needs to cover her needs and those of her child.
Thus, having an adequate intake of iodine is essential in preconception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Consequences of an iodine deficiency
An iodine deficiency in pregnancy has been associated with
- maternal and foetal hypothyroidism and goitre,
- maternal hypothyroxinemia
- higher risk of miscarriage
- low birth weight
- problems with growth
- cognitive impairments in children.
If women have too little iodine during pregnancy or infants have too little during early childhood, the damage caused may be irreversible.
Hypothyroidism and Hypothyroxinemia
- Hypothyroism is a condition in which the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone. It is indicated by a high TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) level with a low T4 level.
- Maternal hypothyroxinemia appears in healthy pregnant women (without any clinical signs or underlying thyroid pathology). Plasma T4 levels are lower than normal but circulating T3 and TSH levels remain normal.
All three hormones T3, T4 and TSH levels are relevant for determining if there is a thyroid disorder.
Although salt is in many countries the main source of iodine, expert medical groups worldwide recommend that women take iodine supplements during and following pregnancy in order to help ensuring their iodine needs are met.
However, there is no general agreement on the recommended daily intake in iodine for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 250 µg (microgram), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) 200 µg, the American Thyroid association (ATA) and the UK Iodine Group 150 µg.
Most of the dietary supplements for the time around the pregnancy contain 150 µg iodine, which is in some countries the upper limit allowed in dietary supplements.
In case of some health disorders, for example a thyroid disease, it may not be recommended to take any additional iodine. You should however still cover your needs in the other essential nutrients for you and your baby. We have hence developed Folio® forte and Folio® iodine-free, allowing you to get enough folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin D3 as advised throughout the pregnancy.