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The importance of iodine for thyroid function and fetal development

Team AckoApr 4, 2023

Iodine is an essential element for human health, playing a major role in the body's metabolic, digestive, and nervous systems. Besides being necessary for the formation of hormones by the thyroid gland, iodine also plays an important role in foetal development and growth. Thus, it is important to understand the importance of iodine, and its role in thyroid functioning and development in the womb.

 Iodine for Thyroid Function and Fetal Development



What is Iodine?

Iodine is an essential trace element for life. It is the lightest of all the halogens, which are elements of the periodic table. Iodine is found in most foods, but it is mainly found in various forms in foods of animal origin, such as seafood and dairy products. 

Uses of Iodine in the Human Body:

  • It is a component of the thyroid hormones, which control metabolism, regulate body temperature and stimulate nerve and muscle functions.

  • Iodine also plays a role in the development and growth of the brain, nervous system, and hormones. A foetus needs adequate amounts of iodine in order to form a functioning brain and nervous system.

  • Iodine is also necessary for proper formation of the baby’s eyes and skeletal system.

What is the Role of Iodine in the Body?

Iodine is the most important element for production of thyroid hormones. When combined with the amino acid tyrosine, iodine helps to form the two thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These hormones control the metabolism, regulate temperature, and stimulate nerve and muscle functions. Deficiency of iodine is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the world.

In addition to providing energy, thyroid hormones regulate the development of the foetal brain and nervous system. Foetal development is dependent upon the proper production of thyroid hormones and thus, on adequate iodine intake. Therefore, pregnant women should ensure that they receive the recommended daily intake of iodine.

Iodine deficiency is a major international health problem, especially in developing countries. Inadequate intake of dietary iodine can cause various diseases, including goitre and cretinism, which is a severe form of intellectual disability.

Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency during Pregnancy

Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to serious health problems in both the mother and the foetus. Pregnant women who are deficient in iodine can develop symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Brittle hair and nails

  • Muscle weakness

  • Goitre (enlarged thyroid gland)

  • Increased sensitivity to cold

  • Mental sluggishness

The foetus of an iodine-deficient mother may also be prone to various foetal abnormalities, including physical and neurodevelopmental delays, growth restriction, and increased risk of miscarriage.

Managing Iodine Intake During Pregnancy

It is important for pregnant women to ensure that they get enough iodine for proper foetal development, as well as for their own health and well-being. Some health organisations recommend that pregnant women should consume an additional 150 mcg of iodine per day. The following are some tips to help ensure adequate iodine intake:

  • Eat foods that are rich in iodine, such as seafood, dairy products, kelp, and wakame.

  • Have small amounts of iodized salt or use kelp granules in cooking and salads.

  • Take iodine supplements if recommended by a doctor.

It is important to note that too much iodine can also be harmful. Therefore, pregnant women should not take more than the recommended daily dose of iodine.


In conclusion, iodine is an essential element for proper foetal development and thyroid functioning. Pregnant women should take care to ensure that they consume adequate amounts of iodine through their diet or through supplements if necessary. Additionally, pregnant women should be monitored closely for signs and symptoms of iodine deficiency, in order to prevent potential health complications for themselves and their foetus.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions about the importance of iodine for thyroid function and fetal development


What are the health benefits of iodine?

Iodine is essential for the formation of thyroid hormones and thus, it plays a role in metabolism, temperature regulation, nerve and muscle functioning. In addition, iodine also plays a role in foetal development and growth.

How much iodine should pregnant women consume?

A2: Health organisations normally recommend that pregnant women should consume an additional 150 mcg of iodine per day. However, it is important to consult with a doctor before taking supplements.

What are the symptoms of iodine deficiency?

Symptoms of iodine deficiency include fatigue, weight gain, brittle hair and nails, muscle weakness, goitre, increased sensitivity to cold, and mental sluggishness.


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