On the back of last month’s research published in the Medical Journal of Australia – reporting on widespread iodine deficiencies among pregnant and breastfeeding women – a prominent endocrinologist has called for universal thyroid screens.
As Professor Creswell Eastman, co-author of the paper jointly written by the University of Sydney and Food Standards Australia, told Australian Doctor:
“It is my estimate from studies in Western Sydney that approximately seven per cent of pregnant women in Australia will have an abnormality in thyroid function, equating to 20,000 to 25,000 pregnant women each year.”
Eastman is an endocrinologist at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital and a board member of the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders.
At present, thyroid screening is limited to high-risk groups only. However Eastman believes this practice leads clinicians to miss one third of all thyroid abnormalities.
His view is not shared by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
According to spokesman Professor Michael Permezel more evidence is required until thyroid screenings could be considered compulsory for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Eastman’s study first created headlines in August due to its findings that expectant mothers or those nursing babies are, on average, short on iodine by 100-150 µg per day – despite the mandatory fortification of non-organic bread in 2009.
This level of daily iodine supplementation would “increase population iodine intakes in pregnant and breastfeeding women to the levels recommended,” the authors wrote.
Australian Doctor added to the report’s finding with comments from dietitian and health science professor from the University of Wollongong, Dr Karen Charlton:
“It is evident that medical staff involved in antenatal care need to be encouraged to recommend supplementation to all pregnant [and breastfeeding] patients,” she said.
Charlton’s research conducted in NSW revealed that 60 per cent of pregnant women and 45 per cent of breastfeeding women take iodine supplements.