How Vision Changes During Pregnancy

The hormonal fluctuations experienced during pregnancy can cause many unexpected changes in your body, including your eyes and vision. Most of these changes are temporary and will return to normal once you give birth, or even once you finish breastfeeding. 

It’s important to know which vision changes are normal for an expecting mother and which could indicate a problem that requires medical attention. 

Why does pregnancy cause vision problems?

As the body prepares to carry a child, it goes through major changes to nearly every system. Your eyesight can be affected by changes to metabolism, hormones, fluid retention, and cardiovascular system. 

Other temporary conditions during pregnancy can also cause a change in eyesight, such as gestational diabetes. Possible causes that should be closely monitored during prenatal care include:

Hormonal Changes

It’s widespread knowledge that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can wreak havoc on the body. Unfortunately, this can also extend to your eyes. Water retention is often the culprit—as you start to see swelling in your feet and joints, your eyes may also be participating in ways you don’t expect. 

Fluid retention in the eyes can increase pressure in the eyeball, resulting in a thicker cornea that can be causing blurry vision. You may also notice puffiness in your eyelids or reduced tear production, both of which can also obscure your vision. 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of temporary diabetes that affects people during pregnancy. It affects around 10% of pregnant women in the US and is caused by hormones that are produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Much like typical diabetes, there are different types determined by severity of the blood sugar imbalance, and can be managed either by diet or by insulin treatment.

Women that were diabetic before pregnancy and those with gestational diabetes need to monitor their vision closely,  as blurred vision can indicate elevated blood sugar levels. The risks of vision loss associated with diabetes is heightened during pregnancy, so it is critical to monitor blood sugar levels at all times. 

Women with gestational diabetes should get a diabetic eye exam, which includes dilating the eye and examining the retina for signs of retinopathy.

While minor changes in your eyes and vision are a normal part of pregnancy, if at any time you notice persistent eye pain, vision loss or discomfort, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. 

Pre-eclampsia

Some significant vision changes could be signs of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious issue that occurs in 5-8% of pregnancies. This disorder is characterized by high blood pressure and often a high amount of protein in the urine. 

Vision symptoms associated with the condition include temporary vision loss, light sensitivity, blurry vision, and the appearance of flashing lights.  If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. When left untreated, it can advance to eclampsia and the onset of seizures.

Common Changes in Vision During Pregnancy

1. Blurry Vision

During pregnancy, you may notice a change in your vision due to hormone levels. If you find that your vision has gotten blurry or that your current prescription eyeglasses (or contact lenses) are not helping as much as they usually do, speak to your eye doctor. 

Often the change in your vision is due to fluid retention which can temporarily change the shape of your cornea. Your doctor may advise waiting until after giving birth to reassess your prescription—your hormonal levels will continue to change and often will go back to normal after breastfeeding. However, if your current prescription is making it difficult to drive or read, your optometrist may be able to offer temporary corrective glasses. 

How to find relief: Blurry vision during pregnancy is often temporary, and may be caused by a number of hormonal changes.

2. Dryness

Dry eyes are common during pregnancy, especially during your final trimester. Dryness is usually caused by hormonal changes that will go back to normal after giving birth. However, dryness can also be a symptom of a more serious condition (like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia), so if you’re experiencing dry eyes in addition to symptoms like eye pain or seeing spots, talk to a doctor.

How to find relief: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, especially on hot days. Eating fruits and vegetables can also provide you with much-needed hydration. Use over-the-counter lubricating eye drops to provide moisture. Using a humidifier and wearing glasses (instead of contact lenses) may also help.

3. Puffy Eyelids

Puffiness around the eyes is a common symptom during pregnancy, which is caused by water retention and other hormonal changes. Mild puffiness can be irritating or cause fatigue, but if you are experiencing further symptoms such as extreme headaches with the puffiness, contact your eye doctor. 

How to find relief: A cold compress over your closed eyes can help reduce swelling. As puffy eyelids are caused by water retention, make sure to stay hydrated and avoid high sodium foods. 

4. Flashing Lights, Spots, or Unusual Floaters

If you are seeing flashing lights and/or spots in your vision, call your doctor. When accompanied by other symptoms such as high blood pressure and significant headaches, these ocular anomalies may be a sign of pre-eclampsia.  

5. Loss of Vision

If you lose your eyesight (even if only temporarily), seek medical attention immediately. Vision loss during pregnancy can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia or another serious condition that requires help from a doctor.

Concerns? Contact Us

It’s important to stay on top of your health during pregnancy. However, some bodily changes are common enough and don’t warrant panic. Blurred vision during pregnancy is often one of these changes brought on by a number of factors.

 If you are experiencing unusual or severe symptoms related to your eyesight during pregnancy—such as headaches, eye pain, or flashes in your vision—make sure to contact your doctor. Book an appointment with us today to address any concerns you may have.