Pregnancy and Your Eyes – What You Should Know

Pregnancy and Your Eyes

Vision-related problems occur relatively frequently during pregnancy. Changes in hormones, metabolism, fluid retention, and blood circulation can all affect your eyes and your eyesight.

Here are the most common vision-related problems that can occur during pregnancy and what you can do about them.

Blurry Vision
Blurry vision is one of the most common vision changes pregnant women experience. Fortunately, blurry vision during pregnancy is temporary and your vision should go back to normal after delivery. The most common causes of blurry vision during pregnancy are dizziness when you go from reclining to standing up too quickly, retinal swelling, retinal detachment from high blood pressure (especially in the third trimester), and if you suffer from uncontrolled gestational diabetes. Additionally, pregnancy hormones decrease tear production, which can lead to eye dryness, irritation and discomfort. Hormones also cause fluid build-up in your eyes, the same way they make your ankles and feet swell up. They can lead to changes in the curvature of your eye which may cause blurry vision. If your blurry vision is accompanied by a headache, swelling, abdominal pain and rapid weight gain, you may have preeclampsia and should seek immediate medical attention.

What you can do about it: If your eyes feel especially dry, ask your eye doctor to recommend lubricating drops. If your contact lenses are bothering you, consider wearing your glasses until after delivery. Don’t bother with a new pair of glasses or contact lens prescription at the end of your pregnancy. Lasik surgery? Don’t even think about it. Remember that the shape of your cornea will most likely revert to normal after your pregnancy is over.

Contact Lens Discomfort
The normal shift in fluid and hormones during pregnancy, particularly estrogen, can also change the curvature and thickness of the corneas.  The change is usually minor and most mothers do not feel any difference since the re-shaping of the cornea is considerably small and does not affect vision. But those who are wearing contact lenses during pregnancy may notice a difference.

What you can do about it: Schedule time for an eye examination during and after pregnancy to determine the state of your existing and possibly altered vision. If a change is apparent, you can easily have your eyes re-evaluated for a new pair of contact lenses or glasses.

Dry Eyes and Puffiness
During pregnancy, your eyes might feel dry, gritty or tired, especially if this is your second, or subsequent pregnancy. It’s known as dry eye syndrome, and is thought to be caused by hormonal changes, particularly a drop in male hormones (androgens). Dry eyes can become a real problem. If you usually wear contact lenses, you may struggle to keep them in place, or find them uncomfortable to wear.

What you can do about it: Dry eyes can be treated with artificial tears or ointments, but check with your doctor first. Treatments that you can buy over the counter may not be suitable for you while you’re pregnant. Don’t stare at a computer screen for long periods of time since this affects how often you blink, and your eyes may dry out. Create a more humid atmosphere at work or at home. Use a humidifier, and open the windows, even if it’s just briefly. Massage your eyelids by gently rolling the end of your forefinger over them. This will encourage mucus to be pushed out of the glands in your eyelids. Keep your eyes clean. Gently dab your upper and lower eyelids with warm water and cotton pads or cotton buds. Protect your eyes from the elements. In windy or hot, dry conditions, wear wraparound sunglasses.

Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
Most women diagnosed with gestational diabetes do not develop eye problems. Similarly, most women with type-1 or type-2 diabetes who become pregnant will not have any problems with their eyes. However, women with diabetes who also have retinopathy may experience a worsening of their condition during pregnancy.

What you can do about it: Make sure your diabetes is well-controlled before and during pregnancy. Emergency laser treatment during pregnancy may be needed in certain cases, since eyes with retinopathy can deteriorate in a just a few days. Laser treatment is usually successful and it is safe for both mother and baby.

William Shakespeare once said “The eyes are the window to your soul.” People can see through someone else by eye contact. Now that you are pregnant, you host two souls (or maybe even more!). Do your best to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear. Let others see the beauty in your eyes.

Diego Wyszynski
Dr. Diego Wyszynski is the Founder and CEO of Pregistry. He is an expert on the effects of medications and vaccines in pregnancy and lactation and an accomplished writer, having published 3 books with Oxford University Press and more than 70 articles in medical journals. In 2017, he was selected a TEDMED Research Scholar. Diego attended the University of Buenos Aires School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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