Pregnancy can cause many changes throughout a woman’s body, and her eyes are no exception. Luckily, most pregnancy-induced eye and vision changes are easily treated and benign, but some can be downright dangerous. Below is a brief summary of the more commonly encountered changes, but make sure to contact your eye doctor if you have any pregnancy-related vision issues.
I most often see refractive changes in pregnant women: that is, their glasses and contact lens prescriptions may change. Sometimes these changes are quite significant (better or worse) and can even be permanent. It’s not unusual to require a change in your prescription even after only a few months of pregnancy.
In addition to prescription changes, women might notice increased dryness of their eyes. This is likely due to hormonal fluctuation and/or difficulty in maintaining good hydration throughout the day. Dryness can make your eyes feel sore, gritty or sandy and can make contact lenses feel uncomfortable. Some women have to discontinue contact lens wear and wear glasses until the dryness improves (which can last until even after the baby is born due to ongoing hormonal changes).
Other less common eye complications from pregnancy can include intraocular pressure changes, pigment/color changes across the eyelids and skin around the eyes, accumulation of fluid under the retina, and in cases of preeclampsia, severe retinal complications and bleeding. In any event, make sure to keep up with regular eye examinations during pregnancy and report any unusual changes in vision or eye comfort to your eye doctor immediately.
Also, be aware that baby’s first eye exam is recommended by the American Optometric Association between the ages of 6 months to 1 year. A national program called InfantSEE allows many local providers (including myself) to provide these check-ups free of cost to anyone with a baby under age 1. Infant exams are fun, easy and help prevent many of the most common causes of childhood blindness. The InfantSEE website (http://www.infantsee.org) provides a list of local participating providers and details on this wonderful program.