Currently, only 15 to 20 percent of pregnant and nursing women are taking supplements containing iodine, Paulson, Children’s National Health System and chairman of the AAP’s council on environmental health. They recommend women augment the iodine they get in foods with a supplement containing 150 micrograms of the element.
Dr. Luigi Garibaldi said he hoped the new statement wouldn’t alarm women, especially since no one knows exactly what the effects of a slight iodine deficiency are. Nevertheless, it makes sense for women to supplement their iodine to be on the safe side, said Garibaldi, clinical director for pediatric endocrinology at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Paulson doesn’t want to scare moms unduly. Iodine levels aren’t so low that babies will have severe brain damage, he said.
“The brain development issues are very subtle and are not likely to be noticed in an individual child,” Paulson explained. “It’s an issue for society as a whole when you have a large number of children who are not reaching their full potential.”
In other words, kids will appear perfectly normal, they just won’t be all they could have been. Women don’t need to have their iodine levels tested, Paulson said. Even if iodine levels are optimal, a supplement won’t hurt.
“Women should make sure they are taking a supplement when they are thinking about becoming pregnant or are pregnant,” Paulson said. “Taking a supplement with potassium iodide in it will maximize the child’s potential long term.”