Pregnancy brings big physical changes for your body. So it’s no surprise that it can have an effect on everything from blood pressure to dental health. But did you know that pregnancy can cause changes in your eyesight? Here we explain everything you need to know about pregnancy and vision.

What changes might I experience in pregnancy?

When you are pregnant, you may find that you experience changes in the quality of your eyesight. These will vary from woman to woman, but may include:

  • A close up of a woman's eye: pregnancy and visionDry eyes
  • Poorer vision, whether or not you already wear contacts or glasses
  • Irritability; finding contact lenses uncomfortable
  • Changes to pre-existing eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma

Does it always occur?

No. Pregnancy affects different people in different ways, and some women do not experience any change in their eyesight during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict whether you will be affected, so it’s good to be aware of the potential issues surrounding pregnancy and vision.

What changes in pregnancy are responsible for altered vision?

Pregnancy involves a massive surge in hormones, increased fluid retention, and often a change in blood pressure. This all takes place while your body is under considerable strain. Here are some of the main changes in pregnancy that can affect your vision.

Fluid retention

Many pregnant women complain of swollen feet and ankles; symptoms that occur as a result of fluid retention. This common pregnancy-related complaint can also have an impact on your vision. Ocular fluid retention can affect the shape and thickness of the cornea. This is the part of the eye that bends and focuses light, so its shape is critical for accurate vision. A change in shape can cause light to be focused incorrectly, and patients experiencing this will report poorer vision.

Hormones

During pregnancy, your hormone levels soar. As well as preparing your body for the growth and arrival of a baby, this can have knock-on effects that filter into your daily life and can affect your vision:

  • A surge in oestrogen can alter the shape of the cornea, leading to changes in the way your eyes focus light.
  • A change in hormone balance can also contribute to dry eyes in pregnancy.

Intraocular pressure

Women are likely to experience a decrease in intraocular pressure – the fluid pressure inside the eyes – when pregnant. For most women, this pregnancy and vision issue isn’t cause for concern. However, for those with glaucoma, it’s something to consider. You may need to speak to your doctor about altering your medication during this time.

What treatment is available?

Pregnancy and vision: contacts or glassesMost of the symptoms affecting your vision during pregnancy will be temporary: they will only last for the duration of the pregnancy and should be resolved within months of giving birth. For this reason, pregnant

women are advised not to undergo laser eye surgery and it’s probably not necessary to get a new prescription for contact lenses or glasses.

For dry eyes, check with your pharmacist which over-the-counter treatments are suitable for pregnant women. You could also try swapping your contact lenses for a pair of glasses to reduce irritation.

Women with diabetes should ideally consult a doctor before conceiving and have regular check-ups throughout pregnancy to monitor any possible diabetic retinopathy.

Women with glaucoma should also stay in regular contact with their specialist.

When should I worry?

Most issues surrounding pregnancy and vision are minor, and will not be a cause for concern. Some symptoms, however, can be an early sign of pre-eclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication. If you experience any of the following, seek immediate medical advice:

  • Any temporary loss of vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Double vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Flashes or spots

If you have any questions about pregnancy and vision, don’t hesitate to speak to your midwife or optician.