During pregnancy your body goes through many changes, some obvious, some not so much. Changes in hormones, metabolism, fluid retention, and blood circulation can all affect your eyes and your eyesight.
Water retention, for instance, may slightly increase the thickness and curvature of your cornea. It’s a small change, but it could affect whether your glasses or contacts still correct your vision. It’s also the reason laser eye surgery isn’t recommended during pregnancy, and why it’s not a good time to be fitted for new contact lenses or invest in a new pair of glasses.
Your eyes may be drier and more irritated during pregnancy (and for as long as you’re breastfeeding). This, along with subtle changes in the shape and thickness of the cornea, can make it uncomfortable to wear contact lenses.
You may also notice flashing lights or blind spots. One possible cause is a condition called migraine headache with visual aura, which some women experience for the first time during pregnancy. In this condition, a painful headache (usually on one side of the head) is preceded by an aura. This can include visual disturbances, such as bright flashes of light, zigzag lines, blind spots, or even temporary loss of vision. It’s possible to have aura symptoms without the headache.
Pregnancy can also improve or worsen existing eye conditions. For example, if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this condition often worsens during pregnancy. See your eye doctor before you get pregnant and again in early pregnancy to get screened for damage to the blood vessels in your retina (diabetic retinopathy). You’ll also need to have more frequent eye exams while you’re pregnant and in the postpartum period.
Glaucoma, on the other hand, sometimes improves during pregnancy, so your eye doctor may be able to lower the dose of your medication – and reduce your baby’s exposure to it.
There are always different products and ways we can help to alleviate dry and irritated eyes during and after your pregnancy, so don’t hesitate to ask for help. If your vision changes unexpectedly, or you notice any unusual flashes, or unexpected visual distortions, call your local optometrist. If your vision does change during pregnancy, it will probably be minor and temporary. Most symptoms will reverse themselves within several months of delivery.
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AAO. 2012. Ocular changes during pregnancy. American Academy of Ophthalmology.https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/ocular-changes-during-pregnancy [Accessed August 2017]
AAO. 2016a. Diabetic retinopathy PPP – updated 2016. American Academy of Ophthalmology.https://www.aao.org/preferred-practice-pattern/diabetic-retinopathy-ppp-updated-2016 [Accessed August 2017]
AAO. 2016b. What is central serous chorioretinopathy? American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-central-serous-retinopathy [Accessed August 2017]
Mackensen F et al. 2014. Ocular changes during pregnancy. Deutsches Arzteblatt International 111(33-34):567-576.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165189/ [Accessed August 2017]