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New official iodine advice for pregnancy
Posted on the 5/03/2010 by * By Danny Rose * From: AAP * March 04, 2010 5:41PM
AUSTRALIAN women who are intending to fall pregnant should be taking an iodine supplement, health authorities now say in a “huge” change to the official advice.

Women planning to start a family are now advised to take daily supplement of the mineral, to address a growing community-wide iodine deficiency which has serious ramifications.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) issued its updated advice, and it drew strong support from world-renowned endocrinologist and expert in the field, Professor Creswell Eastman.

“Iodine deficiency has re-emerged in Australia in the last 10 years and it is now a significant public health problem,” Prof Eastman, who is Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, told AAP.

“We know that 50 per cent of Australian women are iodine deficient so they are putting their pregnancy and foetus at great risk.

“This is a huge step forward … an enormous step, because it recognises that it is a serious problem and it puts forward a mechanism by which women can address it.”

Iodine is found in seafood, eggs and some vegetables and it is used by a woman’s thyroid gland to produce hormones crucial in the development of her baby’s brain and nervous system. Iodine deficiency can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and significant developmental delays in affected children.

Prof Eastman said mums with the worst cases of iodine deficiency could knock 15 points off their child’s IQ, while for all deficient mums “the risk of a lower IQ (child) is very significant”.

The NHMRC is advising all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy to take a daily supplement of 150 micrograms of iodine. The only exception was women with thyroid problems, who should instead consult their doctor for individual guidance on their iodine levels.

“All women who think they may want to start a family should be starting a supplement,” Prof Eastman said.

“If they find out they are pregnant, and they haven’t been taking a supplement, they should start it as soon as they find out.

“The only exception is if you have got pre-existing thyroid problems, go and consult your doctor as soon as you can.”

Read more about nutritional and pregnancy at Starting a Family.