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Pediatricians recommend iodine supplementation for pregnant and breastfeeding women

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The nation's pediatricians are recommending iodine supplements for pregnant and breastfeeding women. They say iodine is essential for baby's brain development.

The American diet is heavy on processed foods and the salt in them. But that salt is not iodized like table salt. Americans are sprinkling less of it, and pediatricians say that's led to many pregnant and breastfeeding women not getting enough iodine.

"I did not realize that. Nope, not at all," said Shannon Conrad who just gave birth to her third boy, Levi.

Iodine is critical for both baby and mom, said their ob/gyn at North Kansas City Hospital.

"Iodine is essential for both women and babies and developing babies for thyroid function. And thyroid function is, in an infant, related directly to brain development," said Dr. Stephanie Elliott.

Research has shown that babies born to iodine-deficient women have lower IQs later in life.

The new statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics says pregnant and breastfeeding women should take supplements that contact adequate levels of iodine. Many prenatal vitamins contain the mineral, but not all women take them religiously. Even if you do, the amount of iodine may not be enough. Many contain 150 micrograms, and 220 micrograms of iodine a day is generally recommended for pregnant women, and 290 micrograms for breastfeeding moms.

So Dr. Elliott says pay attention to your diet, too.

"And if we're always doing process foods, then trying to get back to the basics of preparing food at home and utilizing table salt that contains iodine," said Dr. Elliott.

Besides table salt, you can also get iodine from certain foods such as seafood and cow's milk. Sea salt contains some iodine, but not as much as regular table salt.

The pediatricians say being iodine-deficient also increases mother and baby's vulnerability to the effects of certain pollutants including tobacco smoke.

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