Assessing iodine status and associated health outcomes in British women during pregnancy

Iodine is a key micronutrient in the diet, essential for healthy growth, and is particularly important during pregnancy and breastfeeding when demands are increased to support the developing baby. Many people are thought to lack all the iodine they need, and this is a greater issue during and shortly after pregnancy when the body’s iodine requirements are greatest. Iodine deficiency complications are potentially serious for both mother and child. Iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid enlargement, lower production of important hormones produced by the thyroid, pregnancy complications in the mother, and impaired growth and developmental problems in babies and children.

This research will focus on providing an up-to-date estimate of how many pregnant women do not have enough iodine, and what different levels of iodine might mean in terms of health risks during pregnancy and for childhood development. We will investigate how iodine levels vary over the course of pregnancy and lactation, how this is affected by diet, associated changes in thyroid size and function, and what levels of iodine are linked with greater risk of subsequent health problems. The research will take advantage of existing urine samples collected from mothers during pregnancy in the Born in Bradford birth cohort study, where we also know of any adverse pregnancy outcomes, as well as any developmental problems for the baby and in early childhood.