Vision Changes and Pregnancy: What To Know

The changes can start in pregnancy and linger afterward.

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Photo: Getty Images

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.

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

Here is what you should know about vision changes during and after pregnancy.

How Are Vision Changes Related to Being Pregnant?

It's not uncommon for eye problems and changes to occur while you are pregnant and afterward. According to an October 2020 Australian Journal of General Practice article, physical changes in your eyes might include instances such as your corneas increasing in thickness or your lenses becoming more curved, leading 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, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

"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 pregnant often reacts to hormonal changes, fluid retention, blood volume increases, and other physical changes, per the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

What Specific Vision Issues Might Occur?

During Pregnancy

AAO mentions that 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, the AAO notes that you should seek medical care immediately 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) per the Australian Journal of General Practice article. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also says that, along with unfocused vision, individuals might experience vision issues including flashes of light, bright spots, blind spots, or double vision during pregnancy and within a year of giving birth. 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, the CDC adds.

Other Considerations Regarding Vision During and Following Pregnancy

Women who have any preexisting eye conditions, like glaucoma, high blood pressure, or diabetes, and women 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, since it is not known whether phenylephrine hydrochloride is excreted in human milk, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, if vision problems are present, individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not opt for LASIK surgery according to the AAO.

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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