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A Guide to Pregnancy & Vision

Pregnancy can change your vision in ways you may not have anticipated. Some women notice that they are more sensitive to light, and others have headaches or migraines. You may experience things looking blurry or see spots in your visual field. 

These changes can be the result of natural hormonal changes during pregnancy, and they typically resolve after giving birth. However, some vision changes may indicate more serious problems.

Why Does Pregnancy Affect the Eyes? 

During pregnancy the eye changes due to completely natural and normal hormonal changes. In addition to changes in your biochemistry, appetite, and physical ability, these hormonal shifts can cause issues in your vision. 

How Hormone Changes Affect Vision

One of the most common symptoms is blurred vision. The hormone changes in your body alter the fluid pressure in your eye. This creates blurry vision. 

During pregnancy, you’ll get an increase in progesterone levels. This may cause the delicate corneal tissue of the eye to soften temporarily. Generally, when you give birth, fluid retention is no longer an issue, and you’ll find your vision returns to normal. 

Another common symptom during pregnancy is dry eye. This can feel as if your eyes are dryer than usual. They may also be red, irritated, or inflamed. 

Common Eye Issues During Pregnancy 

Blurry Vision

Blurry vision may be the result of hormonal changes and what is called gestational hypertension. This type of high blood pressure sometimes develops during pregnancy, often after 20 weeks. It typically goes away after giving birth or in the six weeks after birth. 

Blurry vision may also be due to pregnancy hormones decreasing tear production. Although you may find yourself crying, your eyes can still feel dry, irritated, and uncomfortable. 

Dry Eyes 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, hormonal fluctuations can cause dry eyes. This is when your eyes feel dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. This may continue through pregnancy and while breastfeeding. 

Talk to your doctor, as dry eyes may contribute to discomfort with wearing contacts during pregnancy. 

Among the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s recommendations are eating foods known to be good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These include popular foods such as salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts. 

Refractive Changes

During pregnancy, you may experience subtle or minor changes in your vision. These changes are usually temporary and should not cause concern. These minor changes usually resolve after you give birth. 

While your vision may be slightly different from pre-pregnancy, getting a new eyeglass prescription is not usually needed. Check with your eye doctor if you notice changes in your vision. 

Optometrists often advise waiting for several weeks after delivery before getting a new prescription. As your hormone levels are fluctuating, this can affect the shape of your eyes.

Migraines

Due to hormonal changes, increased blood pressure, and possibly stress, you may experience headaches or migraines. 

If you experience severe headaches, contact your doctor as this may be a signal of other conditions.

An Increased Light Sensitivity 

Some women report an increased sensitivity to light during pregnancy. If you find this is happening, you may want to take some preventative measures, such as wearing sunglasses with anti-glare protection, 

Changes in Eye Pressure

Intraocular pressure has been shown to decrease during pregnancy in healthy women. The mechanism of why this occurs isn’t quite clear, and the changes are generally temporary. Eye pressure usually returns to normal after pregnancy.

Puffy Eyes

It is common for pregnant people to develop puffy eyes. You might notice puffiness on your eyelids or around your eyes. Blame it on the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. 

The general guidelines to ease puffy eyes are to drink a lot of water, reduce or eliminate caffeine, and consume a low-sodium diet. 

If this and other symptoms increase suddenly or are accompanied by a severe headache, contact your doctor. 

Vision Changes May Be a Warning Sign

While many of these changes are natural and normal during pregnancy, it is important to realize that vision changes can be signals of more serious complications. 

Take note of your vision changes. Let your doctor know if you have sudden changes in your vision or experience any of the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Extreme swelling of the hands or fingers
  • Very swollen face 
  • Severe headaches
  • Unquenchable thirst
  • Urinating in large amounts at an increased frequency

Some of these signs can indicate dangerous conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. While both of these are serious conditions, they can be managed if diagnosed early by your doctor. 

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious condition, affecting approximately 2 to 8 percent of women during pregnancy. The signs of preeclampsia include sensitivity to light, blurry vision, temporary loss of sight, and seeing visual disturbances, such as halos, auras, flashing lights, or spots. 

This condition can progress quickly and create complications for both you and your baby. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor. If your doctor is not available, go to an emergency room. 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes can lead to premature delivery or stillbirth if it is not treated. With proper management and monitoring, it is not a major cause of concern, however.

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes before pregnancy, it can worsen during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about how best to manage your blood sugar levels while pregnant. 

Glaucoma

Pregnancy can affect your eyesight, and eye pressure often decreases during pregnancy. This can be beneficial if you have glaucoma

Any glaucoma medication may affect your developing baby. Demecarium bromide, known as Humorsol, is not recommended during pregnancy. Additionally, oral carbonic anhydrase inhibitors should only be used with caution in the first three months of pregnancy. 

If you are pregnant and planning on breastfeeding, it is important to realize that medications can be passed through breast milk. Some medications, such as beta-blocker eye drops, concentrate in breast milk and should be avoided. Talk with your eye doctor to find out if you can take a lower dosage of the medication to reduce exposure to your baby.

One recommendation is to minimize risk by practicing nasolacrimal occlusion. This is a simple technique to gently press on the corner of your eye when taking glaucoma medications. This will minimize the amount of medication that could get into your bloodstream and potentially expose your child.

Contact Lenses & Pregnancy

It is safe to wear contact lenses during pregnancy. All the normal precautions should be taken, such as good hygiene and only wearing lenses as long as specified by the manufacturer.
If you have any concerns about wearing contacts while pregnant or are experiencing any negative results from wearing them, talk to your eye doctor.

How to Take Care of Eye Health While Pregnant

About 15% of women experience visual symptoms during pregnancy. They are usually not that severe. Since they resolve after pregnancy in most cases, treatment is usually not needed. 

In some instances, visual symptoms can indicate more serious conditions, such as diabetes, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. If you are uncertain, always talk to your doctor.

While you can’t prevent vision changes during pregnancy, there are steps you can take to protect your eye health while pregnant. Follow these tips.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Before, during, and after pregnancy, it is important to get regular eye exams. If you have preexisting eye conditions, make sure you remain under the care of an eye doctor during pregnancy.

Try Lifestyle Modifications

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these practical tips for expectant moms:

  • Get relief from dry eye. Blink often. Wear contacts for shorter periods. Switch to glasses when your eyes are irritated. Check with your doctor about safe dry eye solutions.
  • Reduce puffiness. Use a cool compress or gel pack over closed eyes. Splash cold water on your face. Reduce sodium and caffeine. Drink lots of water.
  • Check with your eye doctor. You may want to avoid certain medications, take other tests, or get your doctor’s recommendations for eye care during pregnancy.
  • Get extra eye exams. Check for signs of diabetes during pregnancy. Catch these early, so you can treat this condition right away and best protect your vision.
  • Adjust glaucoma medication. If you have glaucoma, pregnancy may be the time when your doctor can lower your medication dosage. This can help protect your baby from exposure.

Vision & Pregnancy FAQs

Can you get LASIK or other laser eye surgery while pregnant?

LASIK and other vision-correcting types of laser surgery are not recommended during pregnancy. This recommendation is often extended to include a six-month timeframe before conception, after birth, and/or after breastfeeding. 

It is recommended to postpone corrective laser surgery until your hormones have stabilized. 

Will my eyes go back to normal after pregnancy?

Typically, your vision will go back to normal after you give birth or within six weeks of giving birth. 

Should I stop using certain medications for my eyes while pregnant?

Some medicines are safe to take during pregnancy, and other medications may be harmful to your baby. Talk with your doctor to determine whether you should stop taking certain eye medications while pregnant. They may switch you to a different medication during pregnancy.

What does pregnancy do to your eyes?

Pregnancy hormones change your biochemistry. This often shows up as blurry vision, double vision, dry eye symptoms, or changes in eye pressure. Another common symptom is having poorer peripheral vision during pregnancy.

Some women say vision symptoms increase as the pregnancy progresses, but they almost always get better after giving birth.

Can being pregnant affect your eyes?

Yes, being pregnant can affect your eyes. Changes in hormone levels affect your eyes, often creating blurry vision. Some women see double images. Others find that it is difficult to tolerate wearing contacts. 

Why does pregnancy make your eyes worse?

While your eyesight may be blurry during pregnancy, most women find that vision returns to pre-pregnancy sharpness within about six weeks of delivery. In some instances, vision changes persist until a woman is no longer breastfeeding.

References

  1. Pregnancy. (May 2014). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Pregnancy and the Eye. (October 2015). Turkish Journal of Ophthalmology.

  3. Pregnancy and Your Vision. Prevent Blindness.

  4. Pregnancy and Blindness and Vision Impairment. (January 2022). Royal College of Nursing.

  5. Common Problems in Pregnancy. (April 2022). National Health Service.

  6. Visual Acuity Changes During Pregnancy and Postpartum: A Cross-Sectional Study in Iran. (September 2014). Journal of Pregnancy.

  7. Dry Eye Disease: A Longitudinal Study Among Pregnant Women in Enugu, South East, Nigeria. (July 2019). The Ocular Surface.

  8. Changes of Intraocular Pressure in Different Trimesters of Pregnancy Among Syrian Refugees in Turkey: A Cross-Sectional Study. (June 2016). Turkish Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

  9. Glaucoma and Pregnancy: Minimizing Risk. (March 2022). Glaucoma Research Foundation.

  10. 5 Eye Care Tips for Moms-to-Be. (April 2016). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  11. Taking Medicines When Pregnant. (April 2022). National Health Service.

  12. Ocular Changes During Pregnancy. (August 2014). Deutsches Arzteblatt.

  13. The Risk of Stillbirth and Infant Death Stratified by Gestational Age in Women with Gestational Diabetes. (April 2013). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

  14. A Narrative Review of the Complex Relationship Between Pregnancy and Eye Changes. (July 2021). Diagnostics.

Last Updated September 23, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.