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May 26, 2014 12:55 PM EDT

Iodide Supplements During Pregnancy May Protect Baby's Brain

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Taking an iodide-containing supplement during pregnancy could protect the brain development of an unborn child, according to a recent study Reuters reported.

Iodine is needed to make the thyroid hormones that are required for children's brain development before and after birth.

An American group of leading pediatricians said iodine, which can be obtained from iodide, is necessary 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, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health and a pediatrician at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Reuters. "Women in the early part of the pregnancy may not realize they're pregnant."

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should get 290 micrograms of iodide per day, according to the American Thyroid Association and the National Academy of Sciences.

The Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health, who authored the recommendations, said past research suggested about one-third of pregnant women in the United States are marginally iodine deficient. Also, only about 15 percent of women take a supplement containing an adequate amount of iodide.

According to the council, 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.

"Breastfeeding mothers should take a supplement that includes at least 150 micrograms of iodide and use iodized table salt," the Council writes.

Women may need to be tested for iodine deficiency if they are vegan or don't eat fish.

"Obviously iodine is critical to the fetal and child brain," Dr. Loralei Thornburg, a pediatrician who was not involved in the story, told Reuters. "Therefore having a diet that's rich in iodine is critical."

The findings were recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

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