1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Guidelines for Iodine Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy


Updated March 13, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Guidelines for Iodine Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy

A woman's need for iodine is higher during pregnancy, according to guidelines published by the American Thyroid Association.

According to the 2011 "Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum," during pregnancy, a woman's need for iodine is higher than when not pregnant. Iodine is needed for the increased thyroid hormone production during pregnancy, as well as to meet the fetal need for iodine. In a woman who has sufficient iodine levels, typically the body will adapt to the increased need of iodine during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. If a woman has even mild or moderate iodine deficiency, however, iodine levels typically decline throughout the pregnancy. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency increases the risk of maternal and fetal goiter, as well as cognitive problems and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders in children.

Severe iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the world today. Severe iodine deficiency in pregnant women is linked to miscarriage, stillbirth, and increased perinatal and infant mortality, as well as developmental problems in children, including cretinism - a condition that can involve severe mental retardation, deaf-mutism, and motor function problems.

According to studies, while the U.S. population typically is iodine sufficient, women of childbearing age are the subset of Americans most likely to have low iodine levels. Throughout the world, iodine deficiency affects over 2.2 billion people, and is most prevalent in South Asia, East Asia Pacific, and the East and South African regions.

In regions with severe iodine deficiency, pre-conception iodine supplementation has resulted in improved cognitive performance for children, and has significantly reduced the risk of cretinisim and other severe complications, including stillbirth, and neonatal and infant mortality.

In mild to moderately iodine-deficient women, studies have shown that supplementation improved outcomes for children. The key benefits seem to occur if iodine supplementation begins prior to conception, or occurs during the first 10 weeks of gestation. The benefits appear to drop off if supplementation begins after 10 to 20 weeks of gestation.

The Guidelines recommend that all pregnant and lactating women get a minimum of 250 mg iodine daily, and to accomplish that, should supplement diet with a daily oral supplement that contains 150 mg of iodine, in the form of potassium iodide.

It should be noted that only about half the prenatal vitamins available in the U.S. - including prescription prenatal vitamins - contain iodine.

To avoid the effects of excess iodine, the Guidelines point to the Institute of Medicine, which has defined the tolerable upper limit for daily iodine intake as 1100 mg/d (1.1 g/d) in all adults, including pregnant women. They recommend that pregnant women avoid sustained iodine intake from diet and dietary supplements that exceeds 500 to 1100 mg daily, to avoid concerns about fetal hypothyroidism.

In addition to diet and iodine supplements, pregnant women should be aware that there are other sources of iodine, including the heart drug amiodarone, which contains 75 mg iodine per 200 mg tablet, and iodine-based contrast agents used for medical tests, which can contain up to 380 mg of iodine per milliliter.


Stagnaro-Green, Alex, et. al. "Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum." Thyroid. Volume 21, Number 10, 2011 (Online)

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Thyroid Disease
  4. Hormone / Fertility / Women
  5. Guidelines for Iodine Nutrition Before, During and After Pregnancy

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.