Pregnant women should take an iodide-containing supplement to protect the brain development of their babies, according to the leading U.S. group of pediatricians.
Iodine, which the body can get from iodide, is needed to make the thyroid hormones that are required for children’s brain development before and after birth.
“Women who are childbearing age need to pay attention to this topic as well, because about half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned,” Dr. Jerome Paulson said. “Women in the early part of the pregnancy may not realize they’re pregnant.”
Paulson is the chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, which authored the policy statement. He is also a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
The recommendations were published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.
People typically get the iodine they need from table salt, which in the U.S. is fortified with iodide. Eating processed foods exposes Americans to salt that is not iodized, however.
The Council writes that past research has suggested about one-third of pregnant women in the U.S. are marginally iodine deficient. Also, only about 15 percent of women take a supplement containing an adequate amount of iodide.
The American Thyroid Association and the National Academy of Sciences suggest pregnant and breastfeeding women get 290 micrograms of iodide per day.
Women may need to take a supplement with 150 micrograms of iodide to reach that recommended level, but most prenatal and lactation vitamins contain less, according to the Council.
“Breastfeeding mothers should take a supplement that includes at least 150 micrograms of iodide and use iodized table salt,” the Council writes.
Additionally, the Council says women may need to be tested for iodine deficiency if they are vegan or don’t eat fish.