MS, RD, LDN
Janel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University. As the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Young Dietitian of the Year award, she believes in making healthy eating simple, sustainable, and delicious.
The thyroid produces hormones important for growth and development, making this gland particularly important in (you guessed it!) pregnancy. Iodine is a mineral that helps the thyroid function properly, so consuming adequate amounts of iodine is imperative for a healthy pregnancy.
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The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iodine is 110-130 mcg/day for infants, 90-120 mcg/day for children and 150 mcg/day for adults. It jumps up to 220 mcg/day during pregnancy and 290 mcg/day during lactation.
Iodine needs increase by approximately 50% during pregnancy and lactation due to increased thyroid hormone production, iodine transfer to the fetus, excretion through the urine and transfer to the infant via breast milk.
Surveys indicate that many pregnant women in the United States, while not showing signs of iodine deficiency, may obtain insufficient amounts of iodine. Iodine deficiency can cause maternal and fetal hypothyroidism (low activity of the thyroid gland) and impair fetal and child cognitive growth and development.
Where to find it? Iodine in the diet most often comes from iodized salt and iodine-containing foods, such as seaweed, saltwater fish and seafood, as well as cow’s milk, meat, eggs and some breads.
Iodized salt is one of the main sources of iodine for people in the United States; however, many people have begun choosing kosher or sea salt over iodized salt. This trend may be putting people at risk for iodine deficiency, resulting in thyroid issues as well as putting healthy pregnancies at risk. It’s important to note that most of the salt in the standard Western diet comes from processed foods, which is not iodized.
Focus on foods
Eating iodine-containing foods is a great way to make sure you and your child are getting enough iodine in your diet.
Include foods such as: Sea vegetables (such as kelp, wakame, or seaweed), Cod, yogurt, shrimp, salmon, dairy, grain products, eggs, and tuna.
Breastmilk and infant formula contain iodine.
Include iodized salt in your eating pattern
Using iodized salt as your table salt or in cooking can also help to keep your iodine levels in a healthy range.
Seek out supplements
Because iodine needs greatly increase during pregnancy, it’s best to start iodine supplementation even before conception or in early pregnancy, to decrease the risk of related complications. Speak with your doctor before starting any supplement.
Always check the labels, as some prenatal vitamins do not contain enough iodine.
According to the American Thyroid Association, daily prenatal supplements should include 150mg of iodine.
Check your thyroid function
If you’re experiencing hypothyroid symptoms (cold sensitivity, fatigue and dry skin), it’s a good idea to check with your health care provider about getting tested.
Know your risk
If you are over 30 years old, have a family history of thyroid disease, hypothyroidism or goiter, have type 1 diabetes, have experienced infertility or have a history of miscarriage or preterm delivery, you may be at an increased risk for thyroid deficiency.
Iodine. National Institutes of Health. Date accessed 2 Mar. 2018. Andersana, SL and P Laurberga “Iodine Supplementation in Pregnancy and the Dilemma of Ambiguous Recommendations.” Eur Thyroid J. Volume 5. Issue 1 (2016): pages 35-43.