Background: Iodine deficiency is a major public health problem affecting people worldwide, particularly pregnant women. Iodine requirements increase substantially during pregnancy making pregnant women vulnerable to iodine deficiency and its disorders such as abortions, stillbirths and pregnancy goitre as well as congenital abnormalities, cretinism and mental retardation in their children. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of iodine deficiency and goitre among pregnant women attending antenatal sessions at two selected hospitals in Ashanti region, Ghana.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out in 239 pregnant women who attended the antenatal clinic at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Hospital or Ejura District Hospital, both in Ashanti Region, Ghana. Socio-demographic data and information related to iodine were captured using a questionnaire. Urinary iodine concentration (UIC) was determined on spot urine samples using the Sandell-Kolthoff reaction with ammonium persulfate as digesting agent. Each woman's thyroid volume was also measured by ultrasonography.
Results: The overall median UIC was 155.9 μg/L, indicating adequate iodine intake in the study population. However, goitre prevalence in the pregnant women was 11.3%, denoting mild iodine deficiency. The median UIC for pregnant women who attended KNUST Hospital was higher (163.8 μg/L) than that of Ejura District Hospital (149.0 μg/L). The proportion of women who did not consume iodised salt was significantly higher (p < 0.001) in Ejura District Hospital (71.2%) than KNUST Hospital (28.0%). In total, 47.3% of the pregnant women studied had a UIC < 150 μg/L. Only 16.3% knew about the increase in iodine requirement during pregnancy and 21.3% of them had knowledge of the effects of iodine deficiency during pregnancy with most (81.8%) knowing of pregnancy goitre.
Conclusion: There is generally adequate iodine intake among the pregnant women, however, iodine deficiency and goitre still exist among some pregnant women. Thus, assessment and continuous monitoring of iodine nutritional status in pregnant women in the country are warranted. Also, intensification of effective public health campaigns (through radio and television) with regard to iodine utilization and its benefits in pregnancy are still recommended among Ghanaian pregnant women.
Keywords: Excessive iodine intake; Goitre; Iodine deficiency; Pregnant women; Thyroid volume.