GPs and healthcare providers participating in antenatal shared care (ANSC) have poor knowledge about the importance of iodine and its role during pregnancy, new Australian research shows.
A cross-sectional survey of 61 healthcare providers and 141 pregnant women from the Illawarra region in New South Wales revealed that neither group was adequately informed about iodine.
Despite the median iodine intake of women surveyed meeting the recommended daily intake of 160 lg/day, only 26% of GPs surveyed admitted to discussing iodine supplementation with their patients - showing an opportunity for healthcare providers to play a more prominent role in nutritional education during pregnancy.
“Our findings identify a need for providers of ANSC to receive adequate education regarding the roles and requirements of iodine in pregnancy, particularly with regard to supplementation,” the study authors wrote.
Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the research also revealed a knowledge gap in pregnant women.
Just over half of the women surveyed were unsure as to whether their diet provided adequate iodine intake for their own bodies’ needs and the needs of their babies, while two thirds of women were unaware that iodine is currently a public health issue in Australia.
The need for professional education about iodine
ANSC is a pregnancy care option available to all Australian pregnant women. It provides a delivery model in which several healthcare professionals - such as GPs, nurses and midwives - are involved with the patient’s care throughout the entire duration of her pregnancy, and research has shown this model improves outcomes and patient satisfaction.
The defined clinical pathway for the shared care model recommends that information on nutritional supplementation be provided by GPs during weeks 8-12 of pregnancy.
However, the results of this study indicate there is a need for increased GP education about iodine deficiency and dietary intake.
Most of the GPs surveyed rated their patient’s general knowledge of iodine as very low or ‘not at all knowledgeable’, while 70% were unaware of the recommended daily intake of iodine for pregnancy supplements. Additionally, almost two thirds reported that they did not prescribe iodine supplements to pregnant women.
Despite the knowledge gap, healthcare providers admitted they would like to learn more about iodine. Almost three quarters of those surveyed expressed an interest in receiving ongoing professional education about iodine in pregnancy, with study authors agreeing this necessary.
“Ongoing nutrition education for ANSC health practitioners is required to ensure that women receive sufficient dietary advice for optimal pregnancy,” they concluded.
The most recent guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend a daily iodine intake of 150 lg/day for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.