“Although most of the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy are physiological, they may also lead to pathological consequences as the increase in hormones may cause changes in vision. In most cases, these are temporary eye conditions that will return to normal after delivery,” says Pretoria-based pphthalmologist, Dr Marissa Willemse.
However, she says, it’s important to know about these possible vision changes during pregnancy so you know what symptoms indicate a serious problem.
Eye changes during pregnancy are categorized as physiological (normal or temporary) or pathological (problematic). Pregnancy-related pathological changes may present as new eye problems, changes in existing eye pathology, and eye complications of systemic diseases.
If you suffer from any pre-existing eye conditions, like glaucoma, high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s important to tell your eye doctor you’re pregnant as he’ll need to monitor any changes in your vision closely for the duration of your pregnancy.
How pregnancy affects your vision
The most frequent pregnancy-related physiological change is an increase in pigmentation around the eyes. Darkening of the face during pregnancy is referred to as pregnancy mask, chloasma or melisma and develops through increased oestrogen, progesterone and melanocyte-stimulating hormone.
Pregnancy can affect tear-film physiology, which lead to dry eyes. Dehydration resulting from nausea and vomiting and the use of anti-nausea medications can also exacerbate this. The good news is, this is temporary and will disappear soon after delivery. Lubricating or rewetting eye drops are perfectly safe to use while you are pregnant or nursing to lessen the discomfort of dry eyes.
Try these home remedies to treat dry eyes:
- Apply a warm or cold compresses to your eyes
- Increase the air moisture in your home with a humidifier.
- Avoid air-conditioners and fans.
- Keep your eyes clean and free of discharge by washing them with water.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Make sure you take plenty of Omegas.
- Do not wear your contact lenses for too long periods
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes against wind and draughts.
- Most lubricating drops are safe to use during pregnancy, and can be used as needed to lessen the discomfort of dry eyes.
During pregnancy, changes in hormone levels can alter the strength you need in your eyeglasses or contact lenses. Though this is usually nothing to worry about, it’s a good idea to discuss any vision changes with an eye doctor who can help you decide whether or not to change your prescription. The doctor may simply tell you to wait a few weeks after delivery before making a change in your prescription.
Puffiness around the eyes is another common side effect of certain hormonal changes women may have while pregnant. Puffy eyelids may interfere with side vision. As a rule of thumb, don’t skimp on your water intake and stick to a moderate diet, low in sodium and caffeine. These healthy habits can help limit water retention and boost your overall comfort.
Contact lenses, contact lens solutions and enzymatic cleaners are safe to use during pregnancy. To reduce the irritation caused by a combination of dry eyes and contact lenses, try cleaning your contact lenses with an enzymatic cleaner more often. If dry, irritated eyes make wearing contacts too uncomfortable, stop wearing your contact lenses. Your eyes will return to normal within a few weeks after delivery.
Could my migraine be linked to my eyes?
Migraines linked to hormonal changes are very common among pregnant women. A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.
Medications can help prevent some migraines and make them less painful. If you are pregnant and suffering from migraines, talk to your doctor before taking any prescription or non-prescription migraine headache medications.
Thobeka Phanyeko is mom to Oratile, 4. She is a journalist with a BA in Media studies from the University of Cape Town and has extensive experience as a journalist and content producer which she gained from Reuters, eNCA and Caxton Magazines. She is also a life coach and NLP Practitioner and is passionate about motherhood and women empowerment.