As far as elements go, iron has always played a crucial role during the course of pregnancy. With increased amount of fluid in circulation, pregnant women have a higher risk of developing anemia. This becomes further complicated as pregnant women require more iron that those that are not pregnant. Recently, European Journal of Endocrinology has uncovered a link between low iron levels and development of thyroid disease in an article published online.

How is iron related to thyroid function?

The thyroid is an essential part of our daily metabolism – it controls how much energy is used up, how much to save and how to co-ordinate the chemical orchestra in our system. Its hormone – thyroxine – is formed via a cascade of enzymatic reactions, one of which involves the enzyme thyroid peroxidase (TPO). The functioning of this particular protein requires the presence of iron.

Iron deficiency is particularly common in pregnant women, as they need thrice the normal amount to synthesize red blood cells for the baby and for the placenta. The study covered a population of around 2000 women, and discovered that approximately 35% of women in their first trimester had deficiency of iron, which increased the risk of auto-immune thyroid disease by 50%.

How will this affect the outcome of the pregnancy?

According to his statement to Medscape Medical News, senior author Kris G Poppe, MD, PhD, this finding is significant as low thyroid levels can lead to miscarriages, premature deliveries, and low birth weight babies. These have associated complications and increased rates of mortality. He noted that while women should try to increase their iron intake around a pregnancy, most conceptions are unplanned and may thus be a hindrance to maintaining optimum levels.

While the results are not conclusive, further studies along the same lines can help establish a link strongly. Until then, it would be prudent to follow routine antenatal advice and have iron levels checked early in pregnancy, and any deficiency compensated soon enough.

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