Are you pregnant and noticing changes in your vision? Are you concerned that these changes could mean something serious?
The fact is, pregnancy can cause changes in your eyes — but not all eye problems are a result of pregnancy.
It’s important to learn the kinds of eyesight changes pregnancy can provoke, so you have a better understanding of what could be causing your eyesight issues.
Are Pregnancy-Related Vision Problems Normal?
You may be surprised to learn about 15 percent of pregnant women will experience changes in vision as a result of their pregnancy. However, while these occurrences are normal, they can also feel slightly strange!
We all know that when a woman is pregnant, her body undergoes many changes as it grows and prepares for a new life. Some changes, such as increased hormone levels and increased fluid retention, can affect the eyes and eyesight.
For example, water retention can cause the curvature of your cornea to increase in thickness, causing your contacts to no longer fit your eyes properly. Extra water retention can also cause pressure to build up in the eyes — pressure that can potentially lead to discomfort.
These are only two examples of many eye changes pregnancy can cause — there are plenty more.
Vision Changes Caused By Pregnancy
The type of vision changes pregnant women may experience will vary — after all, every woman has a unique body and medical history. It’s important to figure out which changes may just be a strange occurrence, and which are symptoms pointing to more significant issues.
Below are some vision or physical eye changes you may experience during pregnancy.
1. Dry Eyes
Some women notice their eyes are much drier during pregnancy. This is usually caused by a surge in hormones and can easily be solved by using eye drops which are safe for use during pregnancy or nursing. The eye drops will help lubricate your eye and provide immediate relief (1).
Talk to your optometrist, doctor, or pharmacist for advice on which eye drops are pregnancy-friendly.
2. Blurred Vision
Many pregnant women experience blurred vision as water retention affects their eyes and leads to distorted images. These changes will usually disappear once the baby is delivered, or when the mother stops breastfeeding.
Blurred vision during pregnancy can also be a sign of something more serious, like high blood pressure or gestational diabetes (2). It’s best to call your doctor if you start experiencing blurred vision. If you experience double vision, flashes, or spots, call your doctor right away.
Editor's Note:Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
3. Corneal Edema
If you notice your eyes becoming more sensitive, dry, or uncomfortable while wearing contacts, you may have corneal edema. This issue usually presents itself in the third trimester and disappears shortly after birth.
Take care of it easily by swapping contacts for glasses and using pregnancy-friendly eye drops.
4. Central Serous Chorioretinopathy
This issue is caused by leakage of fluid under the retina, which typically results in distorted vision. While it’s hard to self-diagnose, if you experience distorted vision, contact your optometrist.
5. Refractive Changes
When you’re pregnant, your hormones can cause you to need higher strength lenses or glasses. These changes are usually temporary, so consult with your doctor on whether or not your prescription needs to be changed.
It’s not usually recommended to change your prescription during pregnancy since eye changes can be temporary. Your optometrist can tell you when the optimal time is to get your eyes checked.
Editor's Note:Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
6. Puffy Eyelids
Hormones may cause your eyelids to become puffy — is there anything they can’t do? Puffy eyelids may affect your peripheral vision. A way to combat this effect is to drink plenty of water and lower your sodium intake because water retention is the likely culprit.
Pregnant women may experience migraines quite frequently — sensitivity to light is a big sign you’ve got one. Additionally, changes in your eyesight can be the culprit. If you experience intense migraines, talk to your doctor. They may be able to help determine treatment.
Should You Postpone An Eye Exam?
Many optometrists hesitate to perform laser eye surgery or prescribe new glasses for pregnant women because of the temporary changes their eyes experience. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid an eye exam for the next 9 months!
You can still have your optometrist check the health of your eyes. It’s safe for you to have them dilated. If you have any questions or concerns, an exam is a great time to voice them to a professional.
Ultimately, your optometrist wants the best for your sight and will be able to offer you advice, solutions, and information.
When Are Vision Changes Concerning?
Some vision changes during pregnancy can be concerning because they’re symptoms of other, more serious issues. For example, high blood pressure and preeclampsia are almost always associated with changes in vision.
The vision symptoms usually associated with more serious conditions include:
- Blurred vision.
- Inability to focus your eyes.
- Double vision.
- Blind spots.
- Seeing flashes of light.
- Light sensitivity.
You should also reach out to your doctor if you experience swelling or puffiness around your eyes, accompanied by any of the above symptoms. These are symptoms often associated with preeclampsia.
Vision Changes As Health Warnings
As we mentioned above, some vision changes can be benign.
However, it’s possible that changes in eyesight can be symptoms of more serious health concerns.
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that can have serious — or even fatal — effects on mother and baby. Along with high blood pressure, other symptoms typically include temporary loss of vision, light sensitivity, blurry vision, and seeing auras.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important you call your doctor or head to the ER as quickly as possible (4).
2. Gestational Diabetes
Developing a blurred vision is also a possible symptom of gestational diabetes — when a pregnant woman experiences temporarily high blood sugar. This type of diabetes lasts until delivery and must be closely monitored by a doctor.
Having this condition puts you at greater risk for gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy, and for type 2 diabetes in the future.
3. Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension
If you have blurred vision or are seeing spots, it’s possible your blood pressure could be high. Many women experience this during pregnancy. Not to worry — the earlier you seek treatment, the higher the chances of minimizing pregnancy complications.
4. Different Trimesters, Different Vision Issues
There’s a chance the trimester you’re in can help indicate what’s causing any eye issues you may be experiencing. It’s common to notice the changes as early as the first trimester because your body is trying to become accustomed to the hormonal changes.
Eye changes during the second trimester can be concerning, because preeclampsia is usually diagnosed after the 20-week mark. If you notice your eyes beginning to change during this trimester, discuss them with your doctor. It’s possible you could catch an underlying issue before it begins to worsen.
However, most women notice vision changes in the third trimester, when their body begins to retain water significantly.
Soothing Pregnancy Vision Changes
You don’t have complete and total control over your eyes when you’re pregnant, but there are some things you can do to help minimize the changes. Remember, most vision changes will correct themselves once the baby is delivered.
Some things you can do to ease vision changes during pregnancy are:
- Use safe eye drops: Try and keep your eyes as lubricated as possible by using eye drops — they’re a lifesaver when it comes to discomfort. Be sure to use eye drops that are safe for pregnancy and talk to your doctor about any concerns.
- Rest your eyes: A little rest can go a long way. If you’re watching TV, close your eyes during commercials. Make sure you read with a light, because the dark can strain your eyes. Getting a little extra sleep each night can help too!
- Hold off on a prescription: Unless your vision changes are affecting daily life, don’t get a new prescription — chances are any changes are temporary. Some women choose to get cheap reader glasses from a drug store to help with farsightedness.
- Don’t over-correct: It’s possible an eye doctor will correct your vision too much, so make sure your optometrist is aware you’re pregnant during your appointment. Once you become accustomed to a stronger lens, your eyes may adapt and require that same strength of lens in the future. Also, steer away from corrective eye surgeries during pregnancy — those can be permanent fixes to a temporary problem.
Vision Changes and Headaches
Changes in your vision may cause a direct increase in the number of headaches you have. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches and think changing vision is part of the cause, reach out to your doctor — you may need a prescription change.
However, changes in vision during pregnancy typically should not cause you to experience frequent headaches. It’s important you take any eye changes associated with headaches very seriously and seek medical attention if they get worse.
Seeing It All Clearly
Pregnancy can cause many changes within your body, and sometimes that includes your eyes. The changes typically aren’t severe and won’t need correcting, as they will disappear shortly after delivery.
However, some vision changes can be symptoms of more serious issues such as preeclampsia or high blood pressure. If you experience drastic changes in vision, it’s important to contact your doctor — better to be safe than sorry! This is especially true if symptoms last longer than a week.