Pregnancy and Your Vision
Along with all the major and minor changes in your body during pregnancy, there are a few that effect your vision; luckily, most of them are mild and only temporary. Once the baby is born, most changes to your vision resolve and return to normal without any treatment needed.
There are a few changes you should be aware of, however, as they can be a sign of more serious problems elsewhere.
Contact Lenses in Pregnancy
Between curvature changes at the front of the eye from fluid retention and the effects of hormones making the eyes feel dry, many women find their contact lenses intolerable during pregnancy and nursing.
Fluid retention can cause the cornea to change its shape which means that contact lenses may not have the same fitting characteristics as they had when the lenses were new. Dry eyes contribute irritation and redness to this mix with predictable results. It can be difficult to separate symptoms of dry eye from discomfort due to changes to the fitting characteristics.
Usually, these changes are temporary and will return to normal after the baby is born and the mother is no longer breast feeding, so treatment is also temporary. Contact lens rewetting drops may be useful as well as reducing daily wear time. Ask your eyecare practitioner for advice concerning safety of the ingredients during pregnancy, and consider using single-use, unpreserved versions of contact lens lubricants to avoid that factor. Soft contact lenses can act as a sponge on the eye, soaking up both the lubricant and the preservatives and holding them there against the cornea. Not all lubricant ingredients are compatible with particular contact lens materials, so check with your eye doctor before using drops of any kind while wearing your contacts.
Pregnant women sometimes find that the simplest way to treat contact lens is to just decrease their contact lens wear time, or even eliminate their contact lens wear completely until childbirth; schedule a visit with your eyecare practitioner to check the lenses before resuming full-time wear.
Even without any past history of contact lens wear at all, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause dryness of the eyes. The components of normal tears can get out of balance and cause redness, burning, stinging and excess tearing from irritation.
Artificial tears can be used several times a day to alleviate these symptoms, but because you may be using them a lot, using unpreserved drops in one-use vials is recommended to avoid the issue of preservatives building up in the eye. Store them in the refrigerator for a nice cooling effect.
If you use a computer or work in an office, be aware that the humidity of that environment is probably low, which could contribute to the problem. Also, studies have shown that people using computers don’t blink as often as they usually do, making dry eyes even more of a problem. To avoid this, remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to look at something at least 20 feet away. Add to this little routine a series of complete blinks to spread the tears across the cornea. (This is an all-purpose rule, with or without being pregnant.)
Both blurred vision and dryness are usually temporary, returning to normal after the birth or when breast feeding is stopped. If either of these two make contact lenses uncomfortable, it may be advisable to discontinue contact lenses and use eyeglasses until then. Having a pair of glasses with your current prescription is always a good idea, but during pregnancy they may be a necessity.
These effects are usually subtle, but having LASIK surgery or trying out contact lenses for the first time are best postponed until after your baby is born and you are no longer breastfeeding.
It is rare for vision changes due to pregnancy to be severe enough to require a change in spectacle prescription, but if you feel unsure, schedule an exam with your eyecare practitioner.
Serious Health Issues
Between five to eight percent of the time, pregnancy may induce a condition called preeclampsia or eclampsia which cause severe high blood pressure. Also marked by the presence of protein in the urine, preeclampsia and eclampsia can result light sensitivity, blurry vision, auras, flashing lights and even a temporary loss of vision, in the form of missing spots called scotomas. (Unlike floaters, which can be normal, scotomas don’t move around when the eye moves.) If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. This condition can progress rapidly and cause serious complications like bleeding.
Gestational diabetes is a type of blood sugar dysfunction that can lead to fluid buildup or bleeding of the small blood vessels of the retina called diabetic retinopathy. Any type of diabetes can cause complications, especially if blood sugar levels are unstable, but women with diabetes who plan to become pregnant should have a thorough eye exam including dilation of the pupils. More frequent eye checkups may be recommended during pregnancy.
As stated above, most of these visual signs and symptoms during pregnancy are temporary in nature and do not cause long-term damage to the eyes and vision.
If you are pregnant and have questions or doubts about any of these, most eyecare practitioners are happy to investigate and treat eye and vision issues. If you experience any of these issues, or if they suddenly seem much worse than before, check with your obstetrician or eye doctor right away.
One more important thing: Our congratulations on this major life-changing event!