Pregnancy and vision: What mothers-to-be need to know

Pregnancy For new mothers and mothers-to-be, few events in life rival feeling their baby's first kick and hearing that first heartbeat in the womb. Yet, a survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA) found that new mothers ranked "seeing my newborn baby for the very first time" as their most memorable event of their maternity.

Here's how those top maternity milestones rated, according to the survey:

  • 56 percent: seeing their newborn baby for the first time
  • 19 percent: hearing baby's heartbeat for the first time
  • 14 percent: feeling baby kick for the first time

While two-in-five (39%) future moms don't know their vision can change during pregnancy, one in six (16%) recent moms experienced this type of vision change. Becoming a mother is a wondrous and exciting milestone in the lives of families, AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., says. And the AOA and doctors of optometry can provide guidance on how they can have the best vision for the best moment of their lives-the first moment they lay eyes on their newborns.

"A good rule of thumb is no matter how minimal the variation to one's eyesight, patients should let their eye doctor know.," Dr. Pierce says. "Pregnant women also should maintain their regularly scheduled visits for an in-person, comprehensive eye exam that can detect any potential issues that may have no obvious warning signs.

"Their health and the health of their baby are important and checking on all unusual symptoms can help have a healthy pregnancy from start to finish," Dr. Pierce says.

Hormones and the eyes

Many mothers-to-be are acquainted with changes in their bodies due to hormones: swollen ankles, mood swings and morning sickness. They are less familiar with changes to their vision delivered by hormones.

If a patient is retaining water, for instance, fluid may build up behind the eye or in the eyeball itself, spurring changes in the shape of the cornea. This changes the way light passes through the eye, which can impair or distort women's vision. And women might find that their corrective lenses aren't as effective as they were prior to their pregnancy, though these are temporary eye conditions that will pass after delivery.

It is important that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant keep their eye doctor up-to-date about their overall health. They should inform them of any pre-existing conditions, such as glaucoma, high blood pressure or diabetes, so the doctor can closely monitor any changes in their eyesight. Women with preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes, in particular, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy or having the condition progress.

Here's some guidance on eye conditions brought on by pregnancy:

Dry eye

To lessen the discomfort of dry eyes, lubricating or rewetting eye drops are recommended and are perfectly safe to use while pregnant or nursing. Because puffy eyes may interfere with side vision, patients should increase their water intake and stick to a moderate diet, low in sodium and caffeine. These healthy habits can help limit water retention and boost overall comfort.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are another common symptom during pregnancy, which can make the eyes more sensitive to light. One of the ways to help reduce headache pain is by wearing sunglasses that have mirror coating to reflect the sun's glare. However, a pregnant patient suffering from frequent migraines should consult with their doctor before taking any prescription or nonprescription migraine medications.

Blurred vision and light sensitivity

The majority of vision changes during pregnancy are mild and temporary, but occasional blurred vision and light sensitivity also could be indications of two dangerous conditions: preeclampsia brought on by high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes that can damage the blood vessels in the retina. Patients should contact their doctors of optometry if their vision becomes blurry during pregnancy, as it may indicate elevated blood sugar levels.

About the AOA survey

The online survey was conducted among a sample of 1,000 recent and mothers-to-be between the ages of 18 and 52. It was fielded between April 29, 2019, and May 5, 2019.

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