Iodine supplementation in pregnant and lactating women
Iodine is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child. A woman’s iodine requirements increase substantially during pregnancy to ensure adequate supply to the fetus.
Most foods are relatively low in iodine content. To ensure that everyone has a sufficient intake of iodine, WHO and UNICEF recommend universal salt iodization as a global strategy. However, in certain countries salt iodization may not be feasible in all regions. Evidence suggests that in settings where universal salt iodization is not fully implemented, pregnant and lactating women and children under two years of age may not be receiving adequate amounts of iodized salt.
Depending on the percentage of households in a particular area with access to iodized salt, iodine supplementation may be necessary to ensure pregnant women are receiving adequate intake.
WHO and UNICEF recommend iodine supplementation for pregnant and lactating women in countries where less than 20% of households have access to iodized salt, until the salt iodization programme is scaled up.
Countries with a household access to iodized salt between 20 and 90% should make efforts to accelerate salt iodization or assess the feasibility of increasing iodine intake in the form of a supplement or iodine fortified foods by the most susceptible groups.
Additional information, including a suggested scheme for supplementation, can be found in the guidance summary, and in the guidance document under 'WHO documents' below.
Status: not currently available
Other guidance documents
Reaching optimal iodine nutrition in pregnant and lactating women and young children: a joint statement by WHO and UNICEF
Related systematic reviews
The Effects of Iodine Deficiency in Pregnancy and Infancy
Evaluating iodine deficiency in pregnant women and young infants—complex physiology with a risk of misinterpretation
Iodine requirements during pregnancy, lactation and the neonatal period and indicators of optimal iodine nutrition