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Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSNFaith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN


A Healthy Pregnancy

Iodine supplements - should you take them?

A filet of halibut garnished with cherry tomatoes and capers. Saltwater fish like halibut are a good source of iodine.

You may have seen on the news recently that the Council for Responsible Nutrition has recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement that includes 150 micrograms of iodine daily. They further encouraged supplement manufacturers to include this amount of iodine in any supplements designed for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition is a trade organization for the supplement industry. Is this simply a matter of a group marketing supplements or does it reflect a potentially serious health issue?

The answer is not quite as easy as it may seem.

About Iodine

Iodine comes from the foods we eat. It is an essential part of thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control many body functions, including metabolism, body temperature regulation, reproduction, growth, and other important body functions. If you do not have adequate iodine, you will not have adequate thyroid hormone.

Adequate iodine is important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Severe deficiencies have been associated with miscarriages, stillbirth, pre-term delivery, permanent brain damage and growth retardation. (

For many years the best source of iodine for many Americans was iodized salt. The amount of iodine in salt varies but is about 142 micrograms in 1/2 tsp. However, many of our readers have stopped using table salt, use it sparingly, or may use sea salt which often is not supplemented with iodine.

Seafood is an excellent source of iodine. Saltwater fish has iodine and is also a good source of Omega-3 fats. Limit fish that is high in mercury and do not eat raw fish during pregnancy. (See: What about seafood?)

Sea vegetables (seaweed, algae, kelp, nori, dulse) vary significantly in the amount of iodine they contain. Some have very little iodine and others are extremely high in iodine and should be limited. Investigate the products that you use.

Fruits and vegetables have some iodine, but the levels vary based on the level of iodine in the soil where they were grown.

There are no tests to determine the amount of iodine in the body.

Should you take an iodine supplement?


  • Iodine needs are higher in pregnancy. The RDA for a non-pregnant adult is 150 micrograms, while RDAs are 220 micrograms iodine per day for pregnant women and 290 micrograms iodine per day for breastfeeding women (NIH).

  • A large national study found deficiencies in half of pregnant women. (Thyroid 2011:21:419-427.)

  • Deficiencies can have severe consequences for the developing child.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed supplementation.


  • Iodine levels that are too high are dangerous for the developing child.

  • ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has not endorsed supplementation, instead encouraging women to get adequate iodine through dietary sources. This lack of endorsement is because there have been no randomized controlled studies assessing the benefits of supplementation at this level. Research has shown that supplementation does not always yield the benefits expected and sometimes has unexpected negative effects.

So what should YOU do?

Your best advisor in this case is your personal physician. She/he knows your medical history. Be sure to let your doctor know:

  • Do you use iodized salt?

  • Do you eat seafood? What type? How often?

  • What type of prenatal vitamin are you taking now?

  • Be sure to share ALL medications and supplements with your doctor.

Whether or not you take a supplement, remember that a pill can never replace a healthy diet, exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices.

Nourish yourself and your child!