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Why Iodine is Essential to Preconception and Pregnancy Health

Why Iodine is Essential to Preconception and Pregnancy Health

Seaweed salad is an easy and delicious way to get adequate amounts of iodine in your diet.

Seaweed salad is an easy and delicious way to get adequate amounts of iodine in your diet.

There are many nutrients and trace minerals essential during preconception and in pregnancy. One essential trace mineral is iodine.

Iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function. The thyroid gland needs iodine to manufacture the hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) – these hormones are involved in regulating various enzymes and organic processes necessary for life, especially in preconception and during pregnancy. Examples of this include cell division and the metabolism of every cell in our bodies, growth, development and repair of the body, central nervous system development in a fetus and infant, and even proper ovulation. It is important to work to solve thyroid problems before conception.

If the thyroid doesn’t have enough iodine to do its job due to iodine deficiency, feedback systems in the body cause the thyroid to work harder which may result in a cascade of imbalances in the body.

Iodine for Preconception and Pregnancy Health

It is important to consume adequate amounts of iodine prior to conception to support…

  • proper function of the thyroid gland
  • normal levels of thyroid hormone
  • to avoid hypothyroidism
  • ovulation – low levels of thyroid hormone can cause women to stop ovulating leading to infertility
  • Metabolism, immune system function, weight management, even mental states (to avoid depression and anxiety)

and in pregnancy to avoid the serious complications for both the mother and the baby of iodine deficiency…

  • high blood pressure during pregnancy (for the mother)
  • hypothyroidism in an infant has the potential to cause:
    – mental retardation
    – cretinism (in extreme cases) – a disorder that involves severely stunted physical and mental growth

The developing brain is most damaged by iodine deficiency. Thyroid hormone is particularly important for myelination (insulating of the nerves) of the central nervous system, which is most active in the perinatal period of fetal development (from conception to about 20 weeks gestation or 140 days into the pregnancy) and early development just after birth until 6 weeks of age. Although truth be told, it can take up to 25 years for complete development of the brain.

Getting Enough Iodine in Your Diet

Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of iodine for people age 14 and older is 150 mcg/day. Speak with your healthcare provider before supplementing iodine in pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Iodine is a chemical that cannot be made by the body, but is easily corrected by resupplying the body with it through diet.

Food Sources of Iodine Include:

  • iodized table salt
  • sea salt or Himalayan Crystal Salt
  • seaweed – Kelp, Dulce, Nori, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, and Wakame
  • salt-water fish – Cod, Sea Bass, Haddock and Perch
  • dairy and dairy products (yogurt) – full fat, raw, organic, grass-fed
  • eggs
  • navy beans
  • whole food multivitamins that contain iodine – Fertile Woman One Daily – wholefood multivitamin

Other foods that may contain iodine (if the soils are not depleted of iodine) are: onions, mushrooms, lettuces, spinach, green peppers, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, even peanuts and whole wheat.

The health of the thyroid gland is critical to fertility. If you question your thyroid health it is best to speak with your healthcare provider about thorough thyroid testing. While iodine supplementation in special cases may be necessary, a diet composed of foods offering iodine in addition to supplementing with a whole food multivitamin may be sufficient enough to support adequate iodine levels.

We encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements including iodine and what may be best for your overall health.


Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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  1. Avatar

    Thanks a million. This is most insightful.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you so much for this article. If I already have a thyroid problem and diabetics, can I use your product known as ThyroFem. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Francis!

      If you are taking prescription medications for your thyroid problem and diabetes, then you would need to ask your healthcare provider about taking any herbs or nutritional supplements as well.

      ThyroFem was created to support normal thyroid function and health for underactive thyroid function only. It is not suggested for use by those with overactive thyroid function.

  3. Avatar

    Iodine has done wonders for my energy level and although I haven’t gotten pregnant yet, I believe a deficiency in Iodine was one reason why. Even after changing my diet to mostly plant based and eliminating coffee, alcohol, sugars & most wheat products, I was still low energy and foggy thinking. Most of my life I felt like this. Within hours of taking the Iodine, I could notice a difference. Iodine has done wonders for me. I wish I had know this years ago! I fully expect to get pregnant soon.