Knowledge about iodine requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding among pregnant women living in Northern Ireland
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Iodine is an essential micronutrient important for foetal nerve and brain development, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. The re-emergence of mild to moderate iodine deficiency has recently been reported in the United Kingdom (UK). The level of knowledge amongst pregnant women regarding iodine nutrition is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to determine the level of knowledge about iodine nutrition during pregnancy among pregnant women living in Northern Ireland (NI).
A cross-sectional study in pregnant women was carried out in Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital Belfast, from March to June 2015. Two hundred pregnant women were provided with a short questionnaire on iodine knowledge during routine clinic visits and comparisons were made across trimester and parity.
Only 20% of women were aware of the potentially increased iodine requirements during pregnancy and breast feeding; 45% were unable to identify any foods they thought would be iodine rich. The three main sources of dietary iodine in the UK are fish, dairy and eggs and 30, 9 and 15% correctly identified these as good sources respectively. When asked about whether they felt they had been given sufficient advice about folic acid and iodine in pregnancy, 90% felt this was so for folic acid, but only 5% for iodine.
This study suggests that iodine knowledge among pregnant women living in NI is poor. In the absence of any iodine fortification programme, women in the UK may be vulnerable to iodine deficiency in pregnancy. At present they are poorly equipped to make positive dietary changes to meet their increasing iodine requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Public health strategies should be considered to target this population group.