Baby Brain Development: Are You Getting Enough Iodine While Pregnant?

Take a closer look at why this mineral is so important for baby brain development during pregnancy. Plus, get easy tips for getting more of it in your diet.

Folic acid? Check. DHA? Got it. But what about iodine while pregnant? Many pregnant women (one third in the United States) are missing out on this key mineral. The challenge is that there are no tests to confirm if you have enough iodine, so most women don’t realize they are lacking it in their diet.

Why You (and Your Baby) Need Iodine

Iodine produces the thyroid hormone that is essential for your baby’s brain development. The mineral has also been shown to protect a baby’s brain from certain environmental hazards. So experts stress that insufficient iodine could lead to decreased brain functioning. In fact, the World Health Organization has called iodine deficiency the greatest cause of preventable brain damage in childhood. Iodine deficiency can also increase your risk of miscarriage. Severe iodine deficiencies could lead to stunted physical growth in your baby.

Getting Iodine While Pregnant

In some parts of the world, iodine deficiency is common. This was generally not the case in places like the United States, where iodine is added to table salt. But recently, the salt that women are consuming is coming more and more from processed foods, and this salt is not iodized. So iodine levels are dropping off.

How can you make sure that you get the small but important amount you need—220 micrograms a day during pregnancy and 290 micrograms a day while breastfeeding?

  • Take a prenatal supplement that includes iodine to encourage baby brain development. And keep taking it while you’re breastfeeding. Enfamil® Expecta® Prenatal Supplement has 150 micrograms of iodine per tablet.
  • Check food labels. It’s found in iodized table salt, and a lesser amount is in sea salt.
  • Choose natural over processed foods. Fish and dairy are both good sources of iodine. Seaweed and plants grown in iodine-rich soil are also good sources.

But remember that more isn’t always better. Too much iodine can cause hypothyroidism, a condition where your thyroid is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones

Your best plan of action: Eat a healthful diet, limit processed food, make sure your prenatal supplement contains iodine, and share any nutrition concerns with your doctor.