If you are thinking about having a baby you need to know about iodine. Iodine is an essential mineral that we get from the food we eat. While seafood is a good source of iodine, the amount of iodine in other food like milk and vegetables varies depending on where it is grown and how it is made.
The developing baby in the womb, babies and young children are at greatest risk from a diet low in iodine. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency can cause learning difficulties and affect physical development and hearing.
In recent years there was a re-emergence of iodine deficiency in Australia and New Zealand, with nearly half the population thought to have inadequate iodine intakes.
Since 2009, the Australian and New Zealand governments have required the salt used to make bread, except organic bread, to be replaced with iodised salt. This provides enough iodine for most of the population. However, because pregnant and breastfeeding women have the greatest need for iodine, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy, take an iodine supplement of 150 micrograms (μg) each day. Women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should seek advice from their doctor before taking a supplement. Kelp and seaweed supplements are not recommended as they contain varying amounts of iodine. Further information on iodine supplementation for pregnant and breastfeeding women is available on the NHMRC website.
As iodine is especially important for your unborn baby and in your baby’s first few years of life, ask your doctor, midwife or Accredited Practising Dietitian for advice on your individual dietary needs.