Pregnancy and the Eye
During pregnancy, not only does the body go through a great deal of change hormonally and physiologically, but also so does the eye. Below are some of the most common effects pregnancy can have on the eye.
- Corneal changes- in some cases, pregnancy can cause the cornea, the front window of the eye, to change curvature and even swell, leading to shifts in glasses and contact lens prescriptions. In addition, changes in the chemistry of the tear film can lead to dry eyes and contact lens intolerance. It is for these reasons that it is generally not recommended to have any new contact lens fitting or new glasses prescription checks until several months post-partum. We want to get the most accurate measurements possible.
- Retinal changes- Many different conditions can affect the retina in pregnancy. If the pregnant woman has diabetes, diabetic eye disease can progress by 50%. In women with preeclampsia, a condition where the blood pressure rises significantly, 40 to 100% of women can show changes in the retinal blood vessels, and 25% to 50% complain of changes to their vision.
- Fluctuation in eye pressure- intraocular pressure (IOP) usually decreases during pregnancy. The exact mechanism for why this happens is unknown, but it is usually attributed to an increase of flow of intraocular fluid out of the eye. This is good news for pregnant women with glaucoma or high IOP. In fact, the drop in IOP is larger when you start with a high IOP compared to one in the normal range.
There are many more effects that pregnancy has on the eye, but these are the most common. One other thing to keep in mind is that though the likelihood of any adverse effect is extremely low, we try not to use any diagnostic eye drops on pregnant patients during the eye exam. Unless there is a medical necessity to dilate the pupils or check IOP, it is a good rule of thumb to put off using drops until after the patient has given birth in order to protect the developing baby.