Vision Changes Pregnancy: Causes & Relief

When you get pregnant, there are certain side effects you can likely expect (hello, morning sickness and indigestion). But others? Well, you may not see them coming—literally. Basically, what we’re trying to say is that pregnancy can mess with your eyesight. From blurry vision to newfound nearsightedness, your eyes might feel the effects of all the changes—hormonal and physiological—happening in your body while you grow your baby.

Here Ashley Brissette, MD, an ophthalmologist and founder of Daily Practice, explains how pregnancy can change your vision, whether you’ll ever have 20/20 sight again (spoiler alert: most people’s vision improves after birth), and what you can do to manage your eye health while you’re expecting.

4 ways pregnancy affects eye health

Though it sounds strange, pregnancy can have a direct effect on your eyes. Here are just a few ways pregnancy can affect your peepers:

1.Your vision can get blurry

Things looking a little fuzzy lately? It’s not your imagination. “During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect the thickness of the cornea (the clear cover of the front of the eye), which can alter the way light enters and focuses in the eye,” Dr. Brissette says. “This can result in fluctuations in vision, including blurriness or distortion.”

2. Your eyes may get dry

You may notice that your eyes get drier during pregnancy. Blame it on hormones—particularly shifts in estrogen and progesterone levels. “Hormonal changes can lead to dry eye,” Dr. Brissette says. Dry eye can irritate your eyes, making them itchy, red, or painful. It can even make your vision blurrier, she says.

3. Your vision may change

Did your eye prescription need an update while pregnant? There’s a scientific reason for that. On top of hormonal fluctuations, “increased blood volume and fluid retention during pregnancy can affect the cornea and eye pressure, leading to changes in the refraction (prescription) of the eye,” Dr. Brissette says. In fact, many pregnant folks become a tad more nearsighted (i.e., when close objects appear clear, but far objects look blurry), according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

4. Your peripheral vision may worsen

Believe it or not, the same fluid retention that causes your swollen ankles during pregnancy can also produce puffiness around the eyes. When you’re pregnant, your body makes more fluid and blood to support your fetus. This tends to slow your circulation, which leads to swelling (because your body holds onto more fluids). Sometimes extra fluid in the eye area can temporarily shift the shape of the cornea, which may limit your peripheral (i.e., side) vision, according to the AAO.

Can pregnancy cause astigmatism?

In healthy eyes, the cornea and lens at the front of the eye have a perfectly round shape. When they don’t (i.e., when they look more like ovals), you can have an astigmatism—a condition that can make your vision a bit blurry, per the AAO. While hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and fluid retention can temporarily alter the shape of your cornea when you’re expecting, “pregnancy itself doesn’t directly cause astigmatism,” says Dr. Brissette. “However, pregnancy can lead to temporary changes in vision that may exacerbate existing astigmatism or cause blurry vision that feels like astigmatism.”

Vision changes in postpartum

These eye health changes may start in pregnancy, but can they follow you postpartum? “These [vision] changes are typically temporary and tend to resolve after childbirth when hormonal levels return to normal,” Dr. Brissette says. That said, it can take up to six months for your body—and your eyes—to adjust. During the postpartum period, “there are still changes in hormones, fluid, and blood volume,” which can all affect vision, she says. And if you’re breastfeeding, chestfeeding, or nursing, your eye-related symptoms may last even longer.

On top of that, the “lack of sleep and stress associated with caring for a newborn can contribute to eye strain and tired eyes with blurry vision,” says Dr. Brissette.

Can eye issues in pregnancy ever signal a more serious issue?

“While most vision changes are benign, they can sometimes be a sign of underlying conditions that require medical attention,” Dr. Brissette says. For example, blurry vision can be a symptom of preeclampsia—a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and eventual organ damage, says Dr. Brissette. Other symptoms of preeclampsia may include the following, per Dr. Brissette:

  • Severe headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swelling of the face and hands
  • Shortness of breath

“Preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the baby if left untreated, so if you have blurry vision and any of the other symptoms, you should seek immediate care,” she says.

You might also get eye-related symptoms if you have diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, for example, can happen when diabetes damages blood vessels in your eye’s retina—the layer of light-sensitive cells that line the back of the eye, according to the AAO. Pregnancy might even make the condition worse, Dr. Brissette says.

Like preeclampsia, diabetes complications can be potentially dangerous for you and your baby when not properly managed. So if you have diabetes, it’s essential “to have regular eye exams during pregnancy and postpartum to monitor any changes,” Dr. Brissette says.

How to treat and manage eye issues during pregnancy

When hormone and fluid levels return to normal, your vision usually will, too. Typically, it takes six months after pregnancy (or once you’ve stopped breastfeeding/chestfeeding/nursing) for your vision to stabilize, Dr. Brissette says. Still, vision changes and dry eye can be annoying and downright uncomfortable. In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to manage eye issues during pregnancy and postpartum, per Dr. Brissette and the AAO:

  • Change your prescription: If your vision has changed, and it’s becoming a big pain in the butt (read: you’re always squinting, you have headaches, etc.), getting a pair of temporary glasses with a new prescription might be worth it.
  • Stay well hydrated: Drinking enough water can help you produce tears and relieve dry, irritated eyes. It can also help reduce water retention.
  • Use artificial tears: Eye drops can lube up and ease dry eyes, but always check with your doctor first. Some products have chemicals that may not be great to use during pregnancy.
  • Cleanse your eyelids: Washing your eyelids with a gentle soap can keep your oil glands from getting clogged and reduce any eyelid swelling (which can also cause dry eye).
  • Limit sodium and caffeine: Using less salt in meals and giving up coffee (or at least cutting down) will help with water retention.
  • Wear contacts less: Contacts have a tendency to dry out your eyes, so wearing them for shorter stints of time can help.
  • Make it a point to blink: Blinking often, especially when using a computer or smartphone, can reduce digital eye strain, keep your eyes moisturized, and decrease dryness.
  • Apply cold compresses: Lay a clean, wet washcloth with cold water or a cool gel pack over your closed eyes. This can slash swelling and puffiness. A splash of cold water over your eyes may also do the trick.

When to see a doctor

Vision changes and other eye-related symptoms while pregnant are usually harmless and temporary. Chalk it up to another interesting way pregnancy can affect your body. Still, it’s always best to check in with your doctor for peace of mind. “If you experience vision changes during pregnancy, it’s essential to consult with both your obstetrician and an ophthalmologist,” Dr. Brissette says.

See your health-care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Persistent vision changes that do not improve, or worsen over time.
  • If you have pre-existing eye conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or retinal disorders. Changes in hormone levels and other physiological factors during pregnancy can affect these conditions, so monitoring by an eye-care professional is important.

You should also get immediate medical attention if you have sudden or severe vision changes—like loss of vision, double vision, light sensitivity, or you’re seeing flashes of light or floaters (lines, dots, specks) in your field of vision. These can be signs of a serious condition such as preeclampsia.


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