OBJECTIVE: A prospective randomized trial was performed to assess the usefulness of iodine supplementation in the prevention of goiter in pregnant women living in marginally iodine-deficient areas. DESIGN: Eighty-six pregnant women were recruited and randomized in two groups and treated daily for up to six months after delivery with 200 microg iodide (group A) or 50 microg iodide (group B). Sixty-seven women (32 in group A and 35 in group B) completed the study. METHODS: Thyroid volume (TV), thyroid functional parameters and urinary iodine concentration were determined in all subjects at booking, at the 18th-26th, and the 29th-33rd week of gestation, and at the 3rd and 6th month after delivery. RESULTS: A slight but not significant increase in TV during gestation was observed only in group B. After delivery a progressive decrease in TV was documented in both groups, the final TV being significantly reduced with respect to the initial volume in group A. No significant changes in serum free thyroid hormones and TSH concentrations were found during gestation in either group. Postpartum thyroiditis was observed in 5 women (2 in group A, 3 in group B). No side effects were seen. CONCLUSION: The present data indicate that in marginally iodine-deficient areas, the administration of iodide is recommended in pregnancy and lactation. In the conditions of the present trial a dose of 50 microg iodide/day is a safe and effective measure in preventing an increase in TV during pregnancy but a dose of 200 microg iodide/day appeared to be more effective without inducing side effects and without enhancing the frequency of post-partum thyroiditis.