Pregnancy is a huge life adjustment that brings about many changes in a woman’s body, but a lesser-known fact is that it can temporarily affect their vision. Many women aren’t aware that changes to their eyesight are to be expected and can worry that their vision problems are a sign of something more serious. In fact, changes to eyesight during pregnancy can affect as many as 15 percents of all pregnant women. The good news is that changes in eyesight during this time are usually minor and temporary, but what causes them and how can you alleviate the side effects?
Shifts in Hormones
Hormones aren’t the only thing that pregnancy affects, it also changes your metabolism, blood circulation and water retention that can all lead to temporary changes in your vision. The fluid retention in the body caused by hormone fluctuations can lead to your eyes holding on to too much water which increases the thickness and curvature of the cornea. This transparent layer of the front of the eye acts as the outermost lens which controls how much light enters the eye. Even just a small amount of fluid can lead to these changes in how we see, which is why optometrists don’t recommend laser eye surgery during pregnancy and often advise contact lenses to be fitted once women have given birth.
Shifts in hormones can also lead to women experiencing dry eyes during their pregnancy – hormones impact the production of tears which lubricate the eyes. This issue is worse for women who regularly use computers or wear contact lenses. Because these problems are usually temporary, they typically resolve themselves but speak to an ophthalmologist if you’re concerned to make sure it’s not a sign of something more serious or permanent.
Vision complications that are ongoing like these can lead to women experiencing migraines or severe headaches more than usual. Some women also find that they need to switch their prescriptions during their pregnancy, with just over 25 percent of women saying that they needed a new prescription while they were pregnant to combat the vision problems they were experiencing. It’s not all bad news though – some women find their eyesight actually improves after pregnancy and patients suffering from glaucoma sometimes find that their medication dosage can be lowered once they’ve given birth as their condition improves.
Ways to Relieve the Problem
One way to help resolve the problem if your eyes are causing your discomfort is to give them a rest – close your eyes for a few minutes to help them lubricate again and gently rub the eye area to help the dryness dissipate. If you use computers at work or at home, give yourself plenty of breaks away from the screen and also from watching TV so as not to dry out your eyes further than necessary. Eye drops can also help with this problem, providing extra moisture to the surface of the eye to relieve any dryness, so they’re handy to have on hand when you’re on the go.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also recommends eating foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids as these can help dry eyes. Foods such as flaxseeds, walnuts and salmon are all rich in this nutrient, so try adding them into your diet where possible to keep your eyes healthy. If you’re someone who usually wears contact lenses, try switching to glasses more regularly during the week to give your eyes a break and help them lubricate more easily, as lenses can often exacerbate the issue of dry eyes. This can be even more likely if you use monthly contacts and astigmatism contact lenses that require regular cleaning. If these problems are persistent, you may find that you need to switch to glasses for the duration of the pregnancy and go back to contact lenses afterward when the issue has resolved itself.
A Sign of Health Problems
The AAO suggests that blurred vision can sometimes be a sign of high blood pressure or pregnancy-related diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can damage the smaller blood vessels in the eyes. If you’ve noticed your eyes blurring more than normal, make an appointment with your GP to ensure it’s not a sign of anything more serious. Changes in your vision and high blood pressure may also be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a serious condition that can be incredibly damaging to both you and your baby.
The Preeclampsia Foundation cites blurred vision as one of the most serious symptoms of this condition, along with vision changes such as sensitivity to light, seeing spots and sensations of flashing lights. Around 25 percent of women with severe preeclampsia and 50 percent of women suffering from eclampsia cite vision problems as one of their symptoms which tends to get worse as the condition becomes more severe. These vision changes, unlike those caused by hormones, are caused by swelling in the brain or central nervous system, so it’s vital that you get checked by your GP if you’re experiencing these problems to ensure there’s no risk to you or your unborn child’s health.
However, most changes to a woman’s vision during pregnancy are nothing to worry about and usually disappear within a few months of giving birth or stopping breastfeeding, as the balance of hormones returns to normal. If you’re pregnant and experiencing problems with your vision, make an appointment with your doctor to ensure it’s nothing to be concerned about.