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The extreme importance of nutrition in pregnancy - Part II

The nutrients in pregnancy

In the previous text we could see (part I) the growth of each foetus depends absolutely on the mother and what she eats. A mother's nutrition influences undoubtedly the health of the future being, not only as a child, but also later in adult life.

For this reason I organized some texts that will complement the article on nutrition in pregnancy - Part I (The first 1000 days of life), which focus on the importance of certain nutrients in pregnancy and how expectant parents can organize their food, aiming to offer their child the best environment to grow healthy.

The iodine

baby-nursingPregnant and lactating women are a group at risk for iodine deficiency, since this mineral needs are increased at this stage and therefore it is difficult to ensure the consumption of appropriate doses of iodine through eating.
A study by the Thyroid Study Group of the Portuguese Society of Endocrinology, in 2010, concluded that Portuguese pregnant women have deficient levels of iodine.
The study indicates that only about 17% of pregnant women had values considered appropriate.
This deficiency can have serious consequences for the health of the foetus, therefore, devote some attention to this nutrient usually overlooked. It can be decisive, especially for the mental health of the baby.
Due to this, Direcção Geral de Saúde (Portuguese government health organization) issued the following Practice Guidance:

"Women in preconception, pregnant or breast feeding should receive a daily supplement of iodine as potassium iodide - 150 to 200 mg / day, from the preconception period throughout pregnancy and the duration of exclusive breastfeeding and the drug should be prescribed with the active ingredient of potassium iodide in a dose adjusted accordingly".

Also the World Health Organization and the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders recommend supplementation of this mineral at this stage of life.

Iodine function

Iodine is a mineral essential to life, it is essential for the correct functioning of the thyroid, which depends on the regulation of growth and organ development, in particular the brain.
Having an effect on body weight, on child growth, it is essential in the neurodevelopment, in regulating menstrual cycles, fertility, memory, concentration, skin condition and calcium metabolism. And so it should not be forgotten in all stages of life.


Obtained from food sources, its concentration in foods depends on several factors and can vary a large amount, depending for example on the distance the foods are grown from the sea.
kelpWe can find iodine in many foods, such as fish, seaweed, vegetables, dairy products, but as already mentioned, their concentrations are highly variable and can therefore not be a reliable source.
Among the foods with the highest concentrations of iodine, we have algae. In some countries the practice is adopted, implemented by the governments, to add iodine to table salt, so that it becomes a source for obtaining iodine. The intention is not that the population is set to consume salt in order to ensure intakes of iodine, but rather add it to food that is consumed generally by the majority. The idea that excessive salt intake is harmful prevails.

Iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency can bring harm to the health of the baby and also influence their adult life. If iodine intake is insufficient, the thyroid works improperly and can cause many problems, essentially problems in cognitive development and / or behaviour of the child, and in its extreme form cretinism (severe mental retardation).

Iodine Needs

The needs of iodine vary along life, being it increased in pregnant and lactating women 250 mg / day. An adult woman who is not pregnant or breastfeeding needs 150 mg / day.
In adults iodine intake above 1100 mg / day may be harmful.


During pregnancy, taking some extra vitamins and / or minerals is common, especially folic acid and iron. However, iodine supplementation is not common, although essential.
It is known that this mineral is fundamental for the healthy development of the foetus and its deficiency can have serious consequences on the child's mental development. As food sources do not provide the daily needs during pregnancy, supplementation is the smart way to achieve this and provide the proper brain development for the baby.
should however not overlook Iodine in the diet, even if through supplementation. You should follow a varied diet and look for daily fresh products, and possibly supplement iodine if the necessary intake is not guaranteed.

Insert date: 2014-06-05 Last update: 2014-06-06

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Essential nutrients
Authors > Contributor writers > ClŠudia Maranhoto
Authors > Translators > Ana Amaral