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What You Need To Know About Iodine In Relation to Pregnancy

September 19, 2018
Katie Visco

When preparing for pregnancy, one of the first things that couples need to cross off their checklist is physical health. Your first visits to your physician should tackle the basic questions: are you able to conceive? What do you need to prepare your body for pregnancy?

Women’s reproductive health is impacted by multiple factors, which means that infertility can be caused by a combination of these factors. Some of the most common causes are due to poor physical and mental health, including nutritional deficiencies, medical conditions (eating, hormonal, and thyroid disorders) and emotional stress.  

But we’re focusing specifically on iodine as it relates to your physical health and pregnancy. New studies mean new information to keep in mind as it relates to your fertility journey.

  • Recent Study: Iodine
  • Iodine Deficiency
  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
  • Iodine-Rich Foods

Recent Study: Iodine

The results of a recent study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development show that moderate to severe iodine deficiency is associated with a decrease in fecundability (aka the likelihood of becoming pregnant within a given period of time).

With a sample size of 467 American women trying to become pregnant, investigators from the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that women with moderate to severe iodine deficiency were 46 percent less likely to conceive in comparison with women with healthy iodine levels. Mild iodine deficiency also seemed to have a negative correlation, but nothing major.

Tomer Singer, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, New York, mentions the effect that the typical Western diet has on the trend of iodine deficiency. “The Western diet has changed in the last few decades, and the adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets [has] led to a reduction in dietary iodine consumption,” he says.

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is one of many minerals essential to one’s health and, secondly, to conceiving children. The reason that iodine is especially important when it comes it pregnancy is because of its effect on the thyroid, which humans need to produce hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Your body needs these hormones for bodily processes such as cell division, healing, immune system function, ovulation, and weight management.

Medical facilities have a few ways to test for iodine deficiencies. One of the most common ways is through a urine sample--the pee in a cup drill. Your urine iodine-creatinine ratios can determine your iodine deficiency. Mild iodine deficiencies are between 50 µg/g and 99 µg/g, and moderate to severe iodine deficiency is below 50 µg/g.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 billion people are iodine deficient. One of the most successful solutions to iodine deficiency has been iodized salt, which is readily available to about 71 percent of households. The fight against iodine deficiency has increased the average intelligence quotient and decreased iodine deficiency-related disorders like hypothyroidism.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)


The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iodine is the amount of iodine one should consume a day in order to maintain sufficient levels of the nutrient in their body. This allowance depends on the person’s age, sex, and whether or not they’re pregnant or lactating.

Iodine-Rich Foods

seaweed dish
‍Seaweed is the ultimate source of iodine.

The body doesn’t naturally produce its own iodine, so we need to consume it. Seaweed is the ultimate source of iodine, but plenty of other options can help you reach your daily recommended iodine intake. Seafood like fish and shrimp have high concentrations of iodine. Animal products such as milk, yogurt, and eggs contain differing levels of iodine, depending on the levels of the animal (cow, chicken, etc.) that produced them. Certain fruits and vegetables also have significant amounts of iodine.

If none of these iodine-rich foods are for you, vitamins are easy options to incorporate the mineral into your diet. Typically, health professionals suggest that women regularly take prenatal vitamins with iodine and folic acid for 3 months before trying to conceive. Furthermore, women should take them throughout lactation.

This is just one of the many studies that research the importance of nutrition in relation to fertility. However, this iodine study is one of its kind; the intellectual community needs larger-scale studies to make more certain claims about the relationship between iodine deficiency and fertility.

After a year of unsuccessful regular attempts to conceive, it’s safe to say you probably have an infertility issue. If you’re over 35, you might want to ask a medical professional after 6 months instead of a year. You’re not alone. About 12 percent of women from ages 15 to 44 have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. If you suspect that you may have iodine or any other nutritional deficiency, consult your physician or health provider.


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