Does your vision change during pregnancy? Is it safe to have laser eye surgery while you are pregnant?

Can pregnancy affect my vision?

Yes, and vision change happens in up to 15 percent of all pregnant women. During pregnancy, 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.

If your vision does change during pregnancy, it will probably be minor and temporary. Most symptoms will reverse themselves within several months of delivery.

If you wear glasses, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to change your prescription, but it is possible. Most women who experience a lasting change find that they’re a bit more short-sighted than they were before pregnancy.

If you think your vision has changed significantly, see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for an exam.

How else can pregnancy affect my eyes?

Dryness and irritation

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.

Visual disturbances from migraines

You may also notice flashing lights or blind spots. One possible cause is a condition called migraine headache with 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. 

Eye disease

Some women with an otherwise healthy pregnancy develop an eye disease called central serous chorioretinopathy. In this condition, fluid builds up under the retina (the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye). Layers of the retina then detach and distort vision, creating blind spots.

This condition is linked to stress hormones and usually develops in late pregnancy, but it can also happen in the first or second trimester. Vision usually returns to normal toward the end of your pregnancy or within a few months after delivery.

Changes to current eye conditions

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.

How can I get relief for dry eyes during pregnancy?

Ask your ophthalmologist about safe remedies for dry eyes. Some over-the-counter solutions are fine to use, but others contain active ingredients that may not be completely safe during pregnancy.

If you have contacts, try wearing them for shorter stretches of time. If that doesn’t help, switch to glasses until you have your baby.

Take regular breaks from the TV, computer, and smartphone. Staring at a screen for long periods of time and not blinking as frequently as usual can make dryness and irritation worse.

Are vision changes during pregnancy ever cause for concern?

Yes, some changes in vision can be symptoms of potentially dangerous conditions, such as high blood pressure. About 25 percent of women with severe preeclampsia and 50 percent of women with eclampsia experience visual symptoms, which tend to worsen as the condition becomes more severe. Symptoms include blurred vision, inability to focus the eyes, blind spots, double vision, and flashes of light.

Should I tell my doctor if I’m having vision changes?

Yes. Be sure to let your doctor or midwife know immediately if you have:

  • Blind spots
  • Double vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Spots or flashing lights in your vision

Also call your doctor if you have eye pain or redness, or if you notice swelling or puffiness around your eyes – another symptom that may accompany preeclampsia. e

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