A women’s body undergoes a number of changes during pregnancy – weight gain, hormone fluctuations, changing body shape, fluid retention. But did you know that pregnancy can also affects the eye?

Approximately 15% of women experience some sort of visual change whilst pregnant. While most of these changes disappear following birth, some may be more serious and require treatment.

Here are some of the most common changes that occur to women’s eyes during pregnancy.

1. Changes in glasses prescription

Several studies show that the shape of the cornea (the transparent layer that covers the front of the eye) becomes thicker and more curved during pregnancy. This can change the angle at which light enters the eye affecting the ability to focus on objects. As a result, around 14% of pregnant women find their current glasses prescription too weak or too strong.

Most changes reverse following birth. Thus it is recommended that pregnant women delay getting a new prescription unless their symptoms persist post-partum. Pregnant women should also delay any surgery to correct their vision as in one study, 25 – 66% of women who underwent refractive eye surgery and fell pregnant up to 12 months later showed signs of regression.

Glasses. Credit: Manfred Hofferer, Pexels
Glasses. Credit: Manfred Hofferer, Pexels

2. Contact lenses discomfort

Some women who wear contact lens find they become uncomfortable during pregnancy. This is likely due to the changes in the shape of the cornea preventing contact lenses from fitting well over the top of the eye. Fluid retention during pregnancy can also cause the cornea to become less sensitive, particularly during the 3rd trimester. As a result, it may be easier to irritate the eye when putting contact lens in as it is difficult to feel the lens. Dry eyes can also increase irritation from contact lenses (see below).

Most of these changes reverse post-partum. However, maintaining good contact lens cleaning routines throughout pregnancy is important as pregnant women have suppressed immune systems and therefore are more susceptible to infection.

3. Dry eyes

Up to 67% of women have symptoms of dry eye during pregnancy. This is likely due to the glands responsible for tear function having a strong dependency on hormones that are altered during pregnancy. Most lubricating eye drops are safe to use during pregnancy, however pregnant women should always talk to their doctor about using medications during pregnancy.

Brown human eye. Credit: Subin, Pexels
Brown human eye. Credit: Subin, Pexels

4. Blotchy eyelids and spider veins

The skin around the eye may also change during pregnancy, mostly due to fluctuations in hormones. In 5% to 70% of pregnant women, a blotchy pigmentation known as hypermelanosis can appear on the eyelids. Similar pigmentation can occur on the cheeks and nose. This pigmentation usually fades slowly post-partum. Spider veins or angiomas may also appear under the eyes as well as other areas of the face and upper body due to elevated estrogen levels. Drooping eyelids (known as Ptosis) is also a rare side effect of pregnancy, thought to be related to fluid retention and hormonal changes. These changes mostly resolve post-partum.

Stay around my blog to learn more about eye health and how the eyes are involved in various health conditions, how the eyes age, and more!