Why do pregnant and breastfeeding women need more iodine?

The thyroid, the gland which stores iodine, is more active during pregnancy. Pregnant women need more iodine to maintain enough stores.

Iodine deficiency can lead to a range of disorders that affect brain and nervous system development.

Because breast-fed infants rely on milk as their sole source of nutrition, breastfeeding mothers need enough iodine to meet their babies’ iodine needs as well as their own.

Research has shown that many Australians are not getting enough iodine in their diet. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers with higher needs need to pay special attention to this nutrient. All bread (except organic varieties) in Australia is now fortified with iodised salt, however change to the food supply may still not be enough to meet the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women. This situation is being monitored.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms per day. This amount of iodine may be met with a multivitamin supplement (rather than being taken separately) aimed a pregnant and breastfeeding women.

You should seek advice from a medical practitioner before taking a supplement if you have any pre-existing thyroid conditions.

An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can help you make sure you are having enough iodine, and that your diet is healthy before and during pregnancy.