When three words are presented together; pregnancy, nursing, and vision, one of those doesn't quite seem to fit. Yet, your eyes are a part of your body, and there are few parts of a woman that go unchanged during pregnancy.
One woman's story recounts a time when she went to the grocery store and couldn't read some of the labels no matter how closely she looked because her vision was suddenly blurry. It was such a sudden change that street signs she had no trouble reading on the way to the store were unreadable on the way home.
She visited an optometrist who prescribed eyeglasses to her - a woman who had nothing but perfect vision her entire life. It was only when she was filling out her paperwork and talking to the supervising optometrist that the subject of her nursing her 7-month-old daughter came up.
That changed everything.
As it turned out, women who are pregnant or lactating can suddenly find their eyes have trouble focusing. Once the baby is weaned, vision generally goes back to normal, but until then the quality of a woman's vision can change more than once over the course of her pregnancy until the first menstrual cycle following lactation.
Why the Eyes?
Women who learn they are pregnant generally expect the usual changes that accompany pregnancy. Morning sickness, tiredness, back pain, and hormonal shifts are all just a part of the process. Yet, even though many women experience vision changes, they are often a surprise when they first occur.
One major reason for changes in eyesight involves a change that affects the whole body: increased water retention. It does more than make your clothing feel too tight; it can also change the shape of your cornea just enough to change your vision (on rare cases, for the better)! Glasses or contact lenses are usually not a recommended remedy if you did not wear them previously because these changes are likely to go away at some point after the baby is born. For the same reason, LASIK surgery or new contacts (if you already wear them) are also advised against.
It's not uncommon to develop dry eyes while pregnant or while lactating, as well. If you wear contact lenses, you might find they don't quite fit right anymore. This problem can generally be solved through the use of artificial tears to lubricate your eyes. Women who wear contacts should be sure the brand they use is safe for contact lenses, and all woman should check with their doctor just to make sure the ingredients of their chosen brand won't have an adverse effect on their pregnancy.
When to Consult a Doctor
Of course, any changes in vision should involve a trip to the doctor, just in case, but there are certain symptoms that should be red flags when it comes to vision changes during and after pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a condition pregnant women sometimes develop, due to an improperly functioning placenta. It is most common in women over 40, pregnant teenagers, and women who are pregnant for the first time. In addition to high blood pressure, preeclampsia can also cause sensitivity to light, blurred vision, auras, flashing lights, or even a temporary loss of vision.
There's no cure for preeclampsia, but all of the symptoms go away after birth. The key to dealing with it is to have regular prenatal examinations. A doctor can help you manage the symptoms so they don't become aggravated and turn into something worse.
As the name implies, gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy. With the help of your doctor, you can manage your blood sugar levels and deliver a completely healthy baby. The diabetes often goes away after the birth of the baby, but this is not always the case. On occasion, gestational diabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. Doctors regularly check for gestational diabetes usually around the 24th or 25th week of pregnancy, unless the woman is in a high-risk group, in which case the tests are often made earlier.
Women who have diabetes, whatever the source, should be in close consultation with their doctor at all times over the course of their pregnancy. It's important to take steps in order to keep blood sugar at a manageable level. High blood sugar sometimes causes damage to the retina, causing blurry vision. It can also cause swelling in the lens of the eye. Lens swelling tends to develop rapidly and will generally go away once your blood sugar returns to the optimal target range.
Of course, any pregnant women with preexisting conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, or high blood pressure should be highly aware of any changes in eyesight, as these changes may symptoms for deeper complications. When it comes to prenatal care, it's almost always best to err on the side of caution.