Eyesight during and after pregnancy

You may have prepared yourself for all sorts of curious bodily changes during pregnancy – expanding waistline, morning sickness, mood swings – but you might find yourself surprised if your vision isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. For a lot of expecting moms, changes in vision can pop up during pregnancy or even postpartum. Some of these are normal – just some more par for the course curiosities of pregnancy that should go away on their own – and others might be cause for concern. So what’s normal and what’s not? 

What sort of vision changes are normal?

Many vision changes occur for some of the same reason other odd symptoms might be popping up – fluctuations in your hormone, fluid, and blood levels.  These can lead to changes like dry eyes and contact lens discomfort, puffy eyelids, blurred vision, or migraines and sensitivity to light. If you experience any of these changes, it’s worth mentioning them to your healthcare provider so they can investigate what’s going on. In some instances, if you’re experiencing hormonal migraines and sensitivity to light, for example, they can advise you on what sort of medication is safe and might help alleviate the situation. Or if you have dry eyes, they can recommend lubricating eye drops. In instances where your vision is blurred and you imagine that you might need a new eyeglass or contact lens prescription, your provider can provide guidance. Sometimes blurred or disorted vision is caused by fluid changes that alter your cornea or lens and sometimes refractive changes are caused by hormones – most of which will resolve after pregnancy. Other times these changes might, indeed, lead you to need a new prescription after delivery. Your healthcare provider can provide you with some guidance and let you know if you should be referred to an eye doctor who can tell you for sure if the changes are pregnancy related or if there are other reasons for your vision changes. And when it comes to any prescription changes for eyewear, an eye doctor can help you decide if you should wait until a few weeks after delivery or will need something new for the time being.

What sort of vision changes might be cause for concern?

Some symptoms can, however, present good reason to call your healthcare provider right away. And some of these changes are similar to issues mentioned above. Both preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, for example, can cause vision problems like blurred vision.

In the case of gestational diabetes – a form of diabetes experienced during pregnancy – blurred vision would be accompanied by high sugar levels. This problem can cause serious vision damage, so if you do have gestational diabetes your healthcare provider will want to monitor your diabetes and blood sugar levels very closely throughout your pregnancy.

In the case of preeclampsia – a dangerous form of hypertension brought on by pregnancy – vision changes – like blurred vision, loss of vision, sensitivity to light, or the appearance of auras or flashes of light – could be accompanied by a wealth of other serious symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, chest, gut, shoulder, or lower back pain, high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, swelling of the hands, feet, or face, shortness of breath, anxiety, or protein in the urine. This is a potentially life-threatening problem, and it can present while pregnant or even occasionally postpartum. So if you experience any of these issues – the vision changes included – be in touch with your provider ASAP.

And if you suffer from any preexisting conditions that can affect your vision – such as diabetes, glaucoma, or high blood pressure – your regular reproductive healthcare provider should definitely be kept in the loop about vision changes you experience. Additionally, you should also tell your regular eye doctor that you’re pregnant so they can monitor your vision health throughout pregnancy and keep tabs on any vision changes along the way.

Read more
  • Friederike Mackensen, Wolfgang E Paulus, Regina Max, Thomas Ness. “Ocular Changes During Pregnancy.” Deutsches Arzteblatt International. 111(33-34): 567–576. August 2014. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165189/.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Gestational diabetes.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, April 28 2017. Retrieved September 6 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gestational-diabetes/home/ovc-20317173.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Preeclampsia.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, April 21 2017. Retrieved September 6 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/home/ovc-20316140.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “FAQ034: Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy.” American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, September 2014. Retrieved September 6 2017. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Preeclampsia-and-High-Blood-Pressure-During-Pregnancy.
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