Iodine deficiency during pregnancy

Dr Angela Flynn, Dr Carolyn Gill, Ms Anna Brockbank, Ms Kathryn Dalrymple

Iodine is an important part of our diet, but we don’t know whether women are getting enough of it during pregnancy. Our researchers are studying how common iodine deficiency is during pregnancy, and the reasons behind this.

Why do we need this research?

Iodine is an important nutrient that is needed during pregnancy to help the baby’s brain develop properly. Low iodine can lead to problems for the child later in life, such as difficulty with speech and reading. Iodine deficiency can also lead to health problems for women.

There’s some evidence that many pregnant women don’t get enough iodine in their diet during pregnancy. However, we don’t know the true extent of iodine deficiency among pregnant women, and how the levels of iodine in mothers’ bodies might change during pregnancy.

What’s happening in this project?

Researchers funded by Tommy’s are using data from a study called UPBEAT, which involved more than 1,500 pregnant women with obesity. These women donated blood and urine samples throughout their pregnancy. Our researchers are measuring the amount of iodine present in urine samples donated early on in pregnancy (15-18 weeks), and in the third trimester (34-36 weeks).

So far, looking at nearly 1,400 urine samples, our researchers have found that around half of pregnant obese women are iodine deficient, in both early and late pregnancy. This confirms their belief that iodine deficiency is very common in pregnancy.

What difference will this project make?

This study has provided a detailed picture of iodine deficiency during pregnancy in obese women, and begun to investigate some of the reason why might be the case. The findings from this research could strengthen recommendations for pregnant women to ensure they get enough iodine in their diet, or could lead to trials of iodine supplements during pregnancy.

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