Iodine and Prenatal Nutrition

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s talk about prenatal nutrition and celebrate the important impact mom’s nutrition has on her developing child. Though it takes two to create a baby, a mother’s influence on her child in the womb is unmatched. A child’s taste preferences are influenced in the womb by what a mother does (or doesn’t!) eat. You also may have heard that a mother’s development of diseases, like gestational diabetes, increases the odds that her child will develop diabetes later in life. Wow!

But did you know that a child in the womb not receiving enough iodine is the most preventable cause of intellectual disability in the world? Fortunately, including certain, readily available foods and drinks in the diet will help ensure baby’s iodine needs are met. Let’s look at the function iodine plays in our bodies, the recommendations for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and the top food sources for iodine.

What Is Iodine?

Iodine is a micronutrient found naturally in our bodies and in the foods we eat. Consuming enough iodine is essential to keep your thyroid hormone functioning properly. However, it’s important to know that getting a sufficient amount of iodine in your diet won’t prevent certain diseases such as Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system targets and attacks the thyroid gland. This disease must be medically managed.

Why Do Pregnant Women Need More Iodine?

A few reasons. In addition to meeting her own iodine needs, a mother’s growing child also needs iodine as they grow and develop their own thyroid. Secondly, due to increased hormone production during pregnancy, the thyroid is working double-time and requires more iodine to do so. Lastly, urinary excretion of iodine during pregnancy is higher, so mom must consume more to replace what is lost.

Why Are the Needs of a Breastfeeding Woman Even Higher?

Iodine is concentrated in breast milk. This may be nature’s way of ensuring that infants receive enough iodine. So, as breastmilk is removed from the breast, mom must replenish her iodine stores.

Where Can I Find Iodine?

Iodine is found in milk, yogurt, cheeses, seafood (especially cod), iodized salt, and more. Incorporating at least three servings of dairy each day along with other food sources of iodine is an easy way to ensure mom and baby are getting enough iodine. It’s recommended that iodine be included in the diet through food sources rather than supplements. Consult your healthcare provider for more guidance.

Are you a healthcare professional interested in learning more about iodine’s role in prenatal nutrition? Check out this complimentary webinar and downloadable resources, created by National Dairy Council.

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