Review Article

Mild to moderate iodine deficiency in pregnancy: A matter of debate

Fereidoun Azizi* and Hossein Delshad

Published: 12 March, 2021 | Volume 5 - Issue 1 | Pages: 018-026

During the last few decades painstaking efforts have been made to eliminate iodine deficiency through the world. Nowadays in regions where dietary iodine intake is adequate or borderline, the main focus is increasing dietary iodine supply in the target population during pregnancy and the first years of life. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of irreversible brain damage, intellectual disability, neurologic abnormalities, stunted growth, increased pregnancy loss, infant mortality, impairments in child development and cretinism. The potential effects of mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency are debated. Results from animal studies and observational human studies indicate that maternal mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency disturbs thyroid function in pregnancy and it also may affects fetal neurodevelopment. The effect of supplementation of iodine on thyroid function of pregnant women and their newborn, neurodevelopment of infants and cognitive performance of children have been investigated using iodine nutrition in pregnancy, based on median urinary iodine concentration. However they have found conflicting results regarding the benefits or harms of iodine supplementation in pregnancy. Although many epidemiological, interventional and clinical studies have supported the association between thyroid function in pregnant women and later psychomotor and mental development of their children, the effect of iodine supplementation in pregnant women on neurodevelopment of children is inconclusive. Even in areas with well-established universal salt iodization program, pregnancy could be at risk of having iodine deficiency and despite WHO/ICCIDD/UNICEF recommendation which believe that dietary iodine fortification during pregnancy depends primarily on the extent of pre-existing iodine deprivation, systematic dietary fortification needs to be implemented in this vulnerable group. However, iodine supplementation of mildly iodine deficient pregnant women may not have beneficial effects in their thyroid function or neurodevelopment of their children.

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Iodine deficiency; Iodine status; Iodine supplementation; Pregnancy


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