Blurred Vision

Expectant mothers have to cope with a variety of different problems. The more common problems, such as morning sickness and constipation, are discussed frequently, while other problems such as vision changes are not. Believe it or not, vision changes are a common, normal part of being pregnant. Blurred vision can occur during any stage of pregnancy, and it can even persist long after the pregnancy has come to term. In fact, many women experience drastic vision changes before they even know they are pregnant.

Causes

As with most problems that expectant mothers experience, hormones are the culprit. The same hormones that make your ankles and face swell also cause an increase of fluid build-up within your eye. Fluid retention is common during pregnancy, and it can affect your cornea. Your lens and cornea may thicken, and the fluid pressure within your eyeball may change, causing your vision to become hazy. Pregnancy hormones also cause a decrease in tear production, which may lead to decreased visual acuity and other symptoms.

Some doctors suspect that another possible reason for blurry vision may be a softening of corneal tissue caused by the body’s increased production of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone softens the cartilage and collagen in a pregnant woman’s pelvic area in preparation for the passage of a baby through this very small space, and there is reason to believe it may have a similar effect on collagen in the eye.

Symptoms and Signs

Blurry vision during pregnancy is normal, but it can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious problem. Some of the other symptoms you may experience are:

  • Eye irritation
  • Dry eyes
  • Discomfort
  • Vision changes
  • Spots
  • Floaters
  • Double vision

If you’re pregnant and experiencing serious vision problems, it may be the sign of a more serious issue. Blurry vision and other vision problems during pregnancy are sometimes a sign of preeclampsia, a potentially serious condition affecting 3 to 5 percent of all pregnancies. Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure and vision changes that can include blurred vision, photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light), flashing lights in your field of vision, and sometimes even temporary blindness. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, these vision changes may be caused by irritation of the central nervous system or by swelling of the brain. If you are experiencing visual symptoms with your pregnancy—especially if these symptoms are accompanied by headaches, vomiting, abdominal pain, or sudden swelling in your face and limbs—you should contact your doctor immediately.

Other problems and conditions that may be signified by blurred vision during pregnancy include:

In some cases, blurred vision during pregnancy may indicate high blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or are prone to diabetes, your obstetrician will advise you on how to manage your condition. If you have another condition not mentioned here, you should always make sure your healthcare provider is aware of the condition, and you should continue to get regular check-ups to avoid future problems.

Other Vision and Eye Changes That May Occur During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can disrupt the function of cells in the lacrimal glands that are responsible for tear production, resulting in dry eyes.

Pregnancy can sometimes be accompanies by a decrease in intraocular pressure. This effect may be more pronounced in women suffering from ocular hypertension. After the first trimester, pregnancy may also have a beneficial effect on women suffering from chronic uveitis, who often report a lower incidence of flare-ups for the remainder of their pregnancies.

Ptosis (drooping eyelid) can also occur in pregnancy. This ptosis is generally unilateral (i.e., it occurs only on one side),  and is caused mostly by hormone fluctuations and by stress.

Treatment

If you’re experiencing blurry vision while you’re pregnant, chances are your healthcare provider won’t take any steps to fix the problem unless it is extremely severe. You should hold off at least six months after the birth of your baby before having any type of corrective surgery performed. If you are planning on getting pregnant, you shouldn’t have corrective surgery done at least six weeks prior to conception. Pregnant women’s eyes are often intolerant of contact lenses, so you should put off being fitted for contact lenses until at least four to six weeks after your baby is born.

Don’t be surprised if your blurry vision persists after pregnancy; vision tends to return to normal within a few weeks after delivery, and your ophthalmologist will probably put off correcting your vision until it has had time to improve on its own. If possible, you should avoid wearing any type of contact lens during pregnancy, while your hormones are causing drastic changes in your body.

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider about this topic before you start to experience vision changes. Your doctor will be able to help you get a sense of what to expect if your vision changes while you are pregnant.

Medical References:

    The British National Health Service http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pre-eclampsia-pregnant.aspx#close American Academy of Ophthalmology http://www.aao.org/publications/eyenet/201205/upload/Ocular-Changes-During-Pregnancy-PDF.pdf The Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1327797/Loose-Womens-Jackie-Brambles-Pregnancy-affected-eyesight.html
[Page updated July 2014]