Vision Changes and Pregnancy: What To Know

The changes can start in pregnancy and linger afterward.

Pregnancy can affect a person's body in a number of ways. When you're pregnant, you might experience heartburn, gain stretch marks, or find that your ankles, feet, and face are swelling. Here is what you should know about vision changes during and after pregnancy.

In some cases, these effects go away or get better once you give birth. In other cases, you might have to deal with changes after pregnancy that could possibly stick around for a long time. Still, one change you might not expect to remain after being pregnant is how different your eyesight might be.

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Changes Related to Pregnancy

It's not uncommon for eye problems and changes to occur while you are pregnant and afterward. Physical changes in your eyes might include instances such as your corneas increasing in thickness or your lenses (clear structures in your eyes that help focus light rays on the back of your eyes) becoming more curved. These changes can lead to vision issues.

There is also the specific issue of refractive error. "During pregnancy and lactation, women may experience changes in their refractive error," said Robert DiMartino, OD, former vice president and dean of academic affairs at the New England College of Optometry.

A refractive error alters your vision by causing the eye to have trouble focusing. "I think it would be best to say that refractive error can be variable during pregnancy and lactation and that a final prescription should be determined following the first menstrual cycle following lactation," Dr. DiMartino said.

Additionally, the eyesight of someone who is pregnant often reacts to:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Fluid retention
  • Blood volume increases
  • Other physical changes

What Specific Vision Issues Might Occur?

There are a few vision issues that may occur during pregnancy or after pregnancy.

During Pregnancy

Dry eye is a possible condition those who are pregnant might experience. The Australian Journal of General Practice article also notes other potential vision issues, including:

  • Double vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden painful or painless vision loss
  • Gradual painless vision loss
  • Burning, itching, or watery eyes without pain

The article's authors add several eye conditions—preexisting or not—that could be tied to the above issues such as glaucoma, refractive error, optic neuritis (optic nerve damage caused by swelling), and dry eye syndrome.

Furthermore, you should seek medical care immediately if you experience double vision or a loss of vision. You'll also want to see a healthcare provider if your vision becomes very blurry as this might be a sign of high blood pressure or pregnancy-related diabetes.

During the Postpartum Period

After pregnancy, a person might experience a temporary loss of the ability to focus visually (accommodation).

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says that, along with unfocused vision, individuals might experience the following vision issues during pregnancy and within a year of giving birth:

  • Flashes of light
  • Bright spots
  • Blind spots
  • Double vision

If you experience any of those symptoms, you should get medical attention as soon as possible. The symptoms can be indicative of a serious health issue.

Other Vision Considerations

People who have any preexisting eye conditions (e.g., glaucoma); high blood pressure; or diabetes and people who have taken fertility treatments should also be extra vigilant with their eyesight, because these conditions may put them at greater risk for vision changes.

Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals don't have their pupils dilated unless there is a risk of vision loss or in extreme cases. It is unknown if eye drops made with phenylephrine (drops used for dilating eyes) are excreted in human milk and if they have any effects on a baby's development.

Additionally, if vision problems are present, individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not opt for LASIK surgery.

A Quick Review

During pregnancy, your body will go through many changes and changes to your vision are one of those. Some problems happen during your pregnancy and others will crop up during the postpartum period. People with preexisting conditions might be more prone to changes in their vision. Ultimately, if ever you have problems with or concerns about your vision while you're pregnant or after you've given birth, be sure to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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  1. Qin Q, Chen C, Cugati S. Ophthalmic associations in pregnancy. Aust J Gen Pract. 2020;49(10):673-680. doi: 10.31128/AJGP-10-19-5113

  2. National Eye Institute. Refractive errors.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Pregnancy.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urgent maternal warning signs.

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Diagnostic agents.

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