Pregnancy is a time of joy when the mother will be carrying and nourishing her child for the next 9 months. The duration of pregnancy is divided into 3 phases called trimester (1st, 2nd and 3rd trimester) each of which consists of 3 months.
Throughout pregnancy, there are changes in the hormone levels in the body which are essential to support the growth and development of the baby. These hormones also cause change in the mother’s metabolism, blood circulation, body size and a whole host of other symptoms such as tiredness, body swelling, mood changes and appetite changes which we are familiar with.
Pregnancy also affects the vision but only in a very minor way and may not even be apparent to most mothers.
Changes in refraction
The curvature of the cornea may change during pregnancy and as such may affect the vision as there may be either an increase (or rarely decrease) in the refractive error such as short or long sightedness. This is due to fluid retention at the lens and cornea causing a change in refraction.
Fortunately, this is temporary and the refractive error should return to the previous level within 1 month after the birth of the child.
As such, there is no need to change prescription of your glasses during pregnancy as the effect is only temporary.
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The eyes can get more tired during pregnancy for 2 reasons. Firstly, the mother’s sleep may be disturbed as she finds it difficult to get into a comfortable sleeping position as her abdomen gets larger as the baby grows. Secondly, the cornea tends to get drier and contact lens wearing may be more uncomfortable and the eyes feel gritty.
This is easily solved by using eye lubricants on a regular basis (between 2-6 times per day) during pregnancy. If you wear contact lenses, you could apply preservative-free lubricants while wearing them or simply wear them for shorter periods.
The amount of dryness is related to the number of hours wearing the contact lenses. If this is too much trouble, just wear glasses during the pregnancy.
Diabetes becomes more difficult to control during pregnancy. As such, the eye is at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and retina haemorrhages during pregnancy. It is very important that pregnant diabetic visit to the ophthalmologist (eye doctor) more frequently during pregnancy.
A general rule is a visit at the beginning of each trimester and monthly during the last trimester until 1 month after the birth of the child.
In rare occasion, pregnancy can cause the blood pressure to rise very high in a condition called eclampsia. This is dangerous to the baby’s development and the mother’s health. In the event of uncontrollable high blood pressure, the mother is at risk of developing neurological (brain) strokes, kidney and heart failure as well as hypertensive retinopathy (haemorrhages in the retina) or strokes in the eye called vein occlusion which can cause blindness.
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- Vision changes can occur during pregnancy but fortunately these changes are temporary and in most cases, the vision returns to normal within 1 month after birth.
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses, do not change the prescription until after you have had the baby.
- Dry eye symptoms are common and can be easily treated with lubricant eye drops. Use preservative-free eye drops if you are wearing contact lenses.
- Mothers who are on treatment for diabetes or hypertension should have their eyes checked during pregnancy as they may develop sight-threatening complications.
Dr. Lee Mun Wai
Dr. Adrian Tey