It all started with my third pregnancy. As the day wore on, I noticed I couldn’t see was well as I did during the mornings. When the problem persisted, I waddled my 7 months-pregnant self all the way to the optometrist’s office hoping to get some relief — and to be able to see clearly. So I was surprised when the optometrist not only wouldn’t give me new contacts (more on this below), but told me that my new vision problems were actually caused by a case of "pregnancy eyes," a temporary but annoying condition.
For better or worse, pregnancy brings about a whole slew of new body changes, many of which are out of our control. Some of them are awesome, like that amazing pregnancy glow. (And then there are the other less-than-exciting ones, like constipation, heartburn, hemorrhoids — you get the idea.) But pregnancy eyes is apparently a thing, guys, and unfortunately, it isn’t always talked about.
“The most common pregnancy-related eye problem is blurred vision,” says Charlotte Akor M.D., General and Pediatric Ophthalmologist in Abilene, Texas. The cornea, or the clear cap of the eye, becomes swollen and holds more water — just like the other parts of your body during pregnancy. The increased amount of water causes the cornea to change shape, which can cause the eye to become shorter or longer. The swelling ultimately affects your vision by making you nearsighted or farsighted. Because of this change in the corneal shape, contact lens fitting is not recommended late in pregnancy, which is why I couldn’t get new contacts when I went to see the optometrist.
Now, for some good news: According to WedMD, pregnancy eyes isn’t permanent. As your body returns to its pre-pregnancy state, your vision should get better. Typically, it takes upwards of three months or so to have your vision normalize again.
Swollen corneas aren't the only reason why everything might look fuzzy, either. What To Expect reported that blurred vision during your pregnancy could occur as a result of decreased tear production, thanks to all those extra hormones. A lack of tears can cause anything from itchy eyes to overall irritation. You can use artificial tear drops to lubricate your eyes that are safe to use during pregnancy, or reduce the amount of time you use contacts to decrease dry eye symptoms.
It's important to note that while this condition is usually benign, pregnancy eyes can be an indication of something more concerning. Vision changes can be a sign of preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition that is associated with high blood pressure, sudden weight gain and edema (swelling) in the hands and face, according to the Mayo Clinic. “Just like preeclampsia is the precursor of reduced blood flow to the body, this also can affect the eye and cause vision loss,” says Dr. Akor. If you experience decreased vision and also exhibit some symptoms of preeclampsia, you should speak with your doctor or OB immediately for an accurate diagnosis.
While pregnancy doesn't make ocular changes caused by diabetes worse, it’s important to note that if a pregnant person with diabetes (or someone who has gestational diabetes) has poor control over their disease, bleeding and fluid leakage called macular edema can cause vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute. If you already have preeclampsia or diabetes, follow your OB’s guidelines to prevent vision loss.
Although not being able to see clearly during your nine months (or squinting to see your newborn postpartum) isn’t optimal, it isn’t one of the worst pregnancy side effects, either. After all, there really isn’t a whole lot that can be done to prevent the corneal changes that occur with pregnancy eyes, though “pregnant women can wear glasses if contact wear is uncomfortable,” advises Dr. Akor. Either way, your vision should be back to normal within a few weeks, and you’ll be singing, “I Can See Clearly Now,” to your sweet little babe in no time.