By Dr. Meenal Chidgupkar
The thyroid hormone, which is intrinsically made up of dietary iodine, is needed for healthy growth and must be present in sufficient amounts. Because of this, severe iodine deficiency severely impacts many aspects of health, particularly in pregnant women and their unborn children. Iodine is a micronutrient required for synthesizing thyroid hormones and healthy human development. Despite extensive international efforts to prevent and manage iodine deficiency, it remains a serious public health concern, particularly for expectant mothers. An increased risk of miscarriage, infant mortality, cretinism, and other serious and irreversible adverse outcomes are all linked to severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy.
Iodine deficiency is particularly relevant for women who are pregnant or nursing their newborns. Preterm birth, stillbirth, and congenital abnormalities in the offspring have all been linked to severe iodine deficiency in the mother. Children of pregnant women who suffer from severe iodine deficiency may experience intellectual difficulties as well as issues with growth, hearing, and speech. The most severe type of underactive thyroid can cause cretinism, an uncommon condition that causes lifelong brain damage, deaf mutism, spasticity, and low esteem. The most prevalent preventable cause of intellectual impairments worldwide is iodine deficiency. Even a modest iodine deficiency during pregnancy, which some women may experience, may be linked to children’s poor IQ.
Effects of iodine deficiency on the mother
The most noticeable effects on pregnant women include goitre, thyroid enlargement, raised blood TSH, and hypothyroxinemia. A sufficient iodine dose can prevent them. An iodine-deficient mother may have several years of severe iodine loss and a resulting goitre, since the higher iodine requirements continue during lactation. She runs the risk of developing multinodular goitre and hyperthyroidism even after she stops lactating and the iodine need reduces.
Additional threats to reproduction from iodine deficiency include overt hypothyroidism, infertility, and increased abortions. Anovulation, infertility, gestational hypertension, a rise in first-trimester abortions, and stillbirths are all symptoms of hypothyroidism that are frequent with iodine deficiency. The mother also suffers cultural and social repercussions from iodine deficiency. Infertility and fetal wasting may compromise her quality of life. If she has an impaired child, she will probably have to take care of it for the rest of her life, which will take time and money away from other necessities.
The importance of iodine in preconception health and pregnancy
The metabolism is controlled by thyroid hormones, which contain the crucial chemical element iodine. It is an essential dietary component that helps the body develop and thrive normally. Thyroid hormones control ovulation, metabolism, and weight control before conception, which is necessary for increasing the chances of becoming pregnant naturally.
Once pregnant, iodine becomes more crucial for a developing fetus, since the thyroid hormone is also essential in brain development. This indicates that an iodine deficiency in pregnant women might result in learning disabilities, slowed growth, and a baby’s intelligence being affected.
Treatment of iodine deficiency
Increasing the intake of iodine-rich foods, using iodized salt, and taking supplements are the main ways to treat it. A synthetic form of the thyroid hormone is used to treat hypothyroidism, and patients must take medication for the rest of their lives. Most people can consume adequate iodine by consuming foods high in minerals, such as seafood. To add more iodine to the diet, consume packaged bread and a bit of iodized salt. Don’t take more iodine than advised for supplements because doing so can also lead to thyroid issues.
Iodine is an essential micronutrient, and it has long been known how important it is for thyroid health. Iodine intake irregularities, however, may have other impacts. The ovaries and endometrium, in particular, avidly absorb iodine. Reduced fertility is associated with iodine deficiency. Recent studies have indicated that couples with unexplained infertility (UI) have higher conception rates when using a contrast medium with a high iodine concentration. Severe iodine deficiency severely impacts many aspects of health, particularly in pregnant women and their unborn children.
(The author is a Senior Consultant- Fertility & IVF, Apollo Fertility (Solapur). Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)