Does Iodine Deficiency Reduce Fertility?

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

A recent study, the first of its kind, investigated the impact of iodine deficiency on fertility. Iodine isn’t a nutrient that you hear very much about, but it’s essential for proper thyroid function. The thyroid is the master regulator in the body, governing metabolism in all the body’s cells. In addition, during pregnancy, adequate iodine is essential for baby’s brain development. About 30% of women of childbearing age (who aren’t pregnant) aren’t getting enough iodine. This study measured levels of iodine in the urine of more than 450 women as they were starting to try to conceive and looked at how long it took these women to conceive. (Iodine in the urine is considered to be reflective of the iodine status of the body.)

The results: A whopping 44% of women had iodine levels below sufficiency and 23% where moderately or severely iodine deficient. Women who were moderately or severely iodine deficient were 46% less likely to get pregnant per cycle than when with sufficient iodine levels. This is a striking result and definitely points to a need to ensure you’re getting enough iodine while trying to conceive. Iodine deficiency may cause your thyroid to not function optimally, which impairs fertility.

Iodine is in a variety of foods including seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt. Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk for iodine deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant and breastfeeding take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine in order prevent iodine deficiency. Both Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins contain 175 mcg of iodine, so either would be a great choice to ensure adequate iodine intake. It’s important to note that certain types of seaweed are very high in iodine, and people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should avoid high iodine intake, as it may make Hashimoto’s worse.

Are you wondering if you’re getting enough iodine and other nutrients in your diet to support optimal fertility? Book an appointment today with one of our nutritionists.

Reference: Mills JL, et al. Delayed conception in women with low urinary iodine concentrations: a population-based prospective cohort study. Human Reproduction. 33(3): 426-433.

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