Language delay and poorer school performance in children of mothers with inadequate iodine intake in pregnancy: results from follow-up at 8 years in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study

Eur J Nutr. 2019 Dec;58(8):3047-3058. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1850-7. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Purpose: Some studies indicate that mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency in pregnant women might negatively affect offspring neurocognitive development, including previous results from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study (MoBa) exploring maternally reported child development at age 3 years. The aim of this follow-up study was to investigate whether maternal iodine intake in pregnancy is associated with language and learning at 8 years of age.

Methods: The study sample includes 39,471 mother-child pairs participating in MoBa with available information from a validated food frequency questionnaire covering the first half of pregnancy and a questionnaire on child neurocognitive development at 8 years. Multivariable regression was used to explore associations of iodine intake from food and supplements with maternally reported child outcomes.

Results: Maternal iodine intake from food less than ~ 150 µg/day was associated with poorer child language skills (p-overall = 0.013), reading skills (p-overall = 0.019), and writing skills (p-overall = 0.004) as well as poorer school test result in reading (p < 0.001), and increased likelihood of the child receiving special educational services (p-overall = 0.042) (in non-iodine supplement users). Although significant, differences were generally small. Maternal use of iodine supplements in pregnancy was not significantly associated with any of the outcomes.

Conclusions: Low habitual iodine intake in pregnant women, i.e., lower than the recommended intake for non-pregnant women, was associated with mothers reporting poorer child language, school performance, and increased likelihood of special educational services. We found no indications of benefits or harm of using iodine-containing supplements in pregnancy. Initiating use in pregnancy might be too late.

Keywords: Dietary supplements; Iodine; MoBa; Neurodevelopment; Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study; Pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Language Development Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mothers*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Iodine