I heard a recent radio report that suggested, pregnant mothers who have low levels of the mineral iodine in their diet during pregnancy might be risking the health of their baby and leaving them with a lower than average IQ.
This was something that immediately concerned me. It’s not something I knew anything about previously To be honest, I did not really know what iodine was and subsequently what it was needed for,before even considering it’s necessity in early pregnancy.
So in case you are as clueless as I was, here’s a summary of what Iodine is and why we need it:
Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral found within certain foods. Your body uses iodine in the production of thyroid hormones. These thyroid hormones control such things as the body’s metabolism. Most importantly, in our case, iodine is essential in the development of bones and the brain of your baby while pregnant.
Where do I get iodine from?
The best source of iodine is in specific foods. Dairy foods and fish are rich in iodine and it can also be found in a certain type of salt. Some countries add this salt to processed foods and breads (not in the UK). As long as you eat a balanced, healthy diet, you should be consuming adequate levels of iodine.
It is also important that the mother continues to consume adequate levels of iodine throughout pregnancy and after the birth if your are breast feeding. This is because your baby will still be relying on the mother as the source of iodine through breast-feeding.
Apparently, it has been quite well studied and documented that low levels of iodine in a female’s diet during pregnancy can be affect the baby’s development. It was previously considered of more concern within developing countries, although a new report published in the UK by the Lancet shows that it may be of wider concern.
The Lancet study on iodine deficiency during pregnancy:
I researched further into The Lancet study on the effects of iodine deficiencies during pregnancy. It revealed that if expectant mothers were not consuming enough foods containing iodine, such as dairy products, their child’s brain development could be hindered.
The lancet report suggests, sufficient levels of Iodine are important in a female’s diet, especially within the early stages of pregnancy, as it is one of the aids to the development of your baby’s brain. They discovered through testing, the children of woman who had iodine deficiencies during pregnancy, had a lower than average IQ.
Worryingly, two thirds of the UK woman taking part in the study where found to have lower levels of iodine than recommended when their urine was tested.
What to do now?
As a result of us discovering this, Jen is certainly taking measures to ensure her diet is now more healthy and balanced. Before our pregnancy planning started, she definitely was not consuming enough dairy products. While she has not been tested, I’m sure her levels of iodine must have been too low. It’s such a simple measure to increase her intake of iodine and one that is essential for the development of our future children. You might want to consider confirming your own iodine intake levels too? I found an iodine urine test kit on amazon available in America.
If you have a deficiency, it’s possible you only need a small amount of iodine to raise you into the acceptable level of iodine intake. This can be easily incorporated within your regular diet.
Iodine rich foods:
Dairy products, milk, cheese and yoghurts are good sources of the iodine mineral.
You may want to discuss this further with your physician or GP.
I must mention a warning that I read on the BBC website. It is not recommended that you take iodine supplements, such as seaweed pills, as an alternative to diet. The levels of iodine in them are just too high, and are not recommended as safe. Better not to risk the health of mother or baby.
If you are interested in some further reading about iodine deficiencies, here are a few useful sources I discovered while researching: