Inadequate iodine intake in lactating women in Sweden: A pilot 1-year, prospective, observational study

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2021 Jan;100(1):48-57. doi: 10.1111/aogs.13986. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Introduction: Breastfed infants depend on breast-milk iodine for growth and brain development, as iodine is a trace element important for thyroid hormone production. Iodine need is higher during lactation; hence, mothers and children are at risk of iodine deficiency. We aimed to explore maternal iodine and thyroidal status during lactation.

Material and methods: Pregnant women were recruited in Gothenburg, southwest Sweden. Maternal urine and serum were collected at pregnancy week 35-37 (n = 84) and 0.5, 4, and 12 months postpartum. Seventy mothers provided breast milk at 0.5 months.

Results: Median (interquartile range) breast-milk iodine concentration was 90 (66-116) μg/L. About 58% had breast-milk iodine concentration <100 μg/L. Iodine supplement users (n = 13) had higher breast-milk iodine concentration than non-users (n = 49) (140 μg/L vs 71 μg/L, P = .001). Exclusively breastfeeding women at 4 months postpartum (n = 57) had lower median urinary iodine concentration (85 μg/L vs 133 μg/L, P = .004) and higher thyroglobulin serum concentration (22.3 μg/L vs 11.8 μg/L, P = .032) than non-exclusively breastfeeding women (n = 25). Concentrations of thyroid hormones were unaffected.

Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that lactating women in southwest Sweden present mildly inadequate iodine intake, mainly among non-iodine supplement users and exclusively breastfeeding mothers. Studies on the coverage of the iodine fortification program in breastfeeding women are warranted.

Keywords: Sweden; breastfeeding; human; iodine; lactation; milk; thyroglobulin; thyroid gland; urine.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Lactation*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sweden


  • Iodine