How Pregnancy Hormones Impact Vision

Young pregnant mom shopping for baby clothes joyfully in the department store

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When it comes to pregnancy-related physical changes, there's plenty of obvious ones that come to mind: a growing belly, changes in appetite, thicker or shinier hair—just to name a few.

But pregnancy can also impact other parts of your body, including your vision. If you've noticed some changes to your sight while expecting, you're definitely not alone.

As the hormones that support your pregnancy and your growing baby fluctuate in your body, they can cause some unintended consequences. You may retain more fluid, which in turn, may distort your vision, perhaps by affecting the shape and thickness of your corneas, and your eyes may feel dry and scratchy due to a decrease in tear production. You may notice a little blurriness—or it could be more serious than that.

Ahead, we'll break down why these changes occur, what can be done about them, and when to contact your healthcare provider with concerns.

Blurry Vision

Chances are, if you experience any pregnancy-related vision change, it will be this one. 

“It can be the hormones,” says Dallas Reed, MD, an OB/GYN and chief of genetics at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “It can also be the fluid shifts that happen in the body.”

If you’re pregnant right now, lean over and look at your ankles. Do they appear thicker than usual or swollen?

Your body tends to hold onto more water than normal when you’re pregnant, leading to edema, or swelling in places like your ankles, feet, and fingers. Water retention might also contribute to decreased sensitivity in your cornea, which may affect your vision. The thickness of your corneas may even change during your second or third trimester as a result of water retention, which can cause some refractive problems with your vision.

The good news is that the blurry vision is likely to be temporary, albeit inconvenient.

“There’s not much that you can do about it, and it does go away,” says Dr. Reed. “It might go away during the pregnancy, and it will go away after you have the baby.”

In the meantime, it’s probably not a good idea to rush out and get a new pair of glasses or new contact lenses. “You wouldn't want to treat a moving target,” says Natasha Herz, MD, an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). “You might want to hold off until after pregnancy.”

Dry Eyes

Dry, itchy eyes are no fun at all—and pregnancy hormones could be the culprit here too. They can inhibit your body from producing those concentrated tears necessary for maintaining proper lubrication of the eye's surface.

You may also be unintentionally exacerbating the problem by staring at your computer screen, smartphone, or tablet for long periods of time without blinking or taking a break. Try taking frequent breaks to look away from your screens and make a concerted effort to blink often.

If you're still struggling with dry eye during pregnancy, try these other strategies, such as swapping your contacts for glasses, using a humidifier to moisten the air inside, wearing sunglasses outside, and drinking more water.

You may also be able to use artificial tears or other over-the-counter eye-moisturizing ointments. "Talk to your ophthalmologist about lubricating drops and other treatment that are safe during pregnancy,” suggests Dr. Herz. 

And don’t underestimate the benefits of a healthy diet. A 2020 study in the journal Nutrients found that eating a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil and nuts seemed to help some people struggling with dry eye.

“Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids...such as salmon, flax seeds and walnuts, may help resolve dry eye and also supports general good health,” Dr. Herz adds. 

Floaters and Flashes

A floater may look like a small speck or line floating gently across your field of vision. But it's actually a shadow on your retina, created by a tiny clump of cells in the vitreous fluid of your eye. Typically, they’re not serious, according to the AAO. Similarly, flashes, which appear like flashes of light, are usually not cause for alarm, either. 

However, if you suddenly develop a whole bunch of new flashes and floaters, that’s worth noticing. Your retina may have torn or pulled away from the back of your eye, which deprives your retinal cells from the oxygen they need. In that case, you would need to contact your healthcare provider and seek treatment right away to avoid any permanent vision loss. 

Floaters could also be a sign of developing pre-eclampsia, which is a serious medical condition that can't be ignored.

Vision Loss

Blurry vision during pregnancy is probably nothing to worry about, but vision loss is. It could be a sign of retinal detachment or another serious condition. 

You may be wondering how likely you are to experience a retinal detachment while pregnant. It might depend on other conditions that you have. Research suggests that pregnancy may induce retinal detachment in some people with serious conditions such as HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets). Some of symptoms of HELLP, which may affect as many as 45,000 pregnant people each year in the U.S., are blurry vision, double vision, and flashing lights or auras. 

Additionally, if you have a pre-existing retinal condition like diabetic retinopathy or idiopathic central serous chorioretinopathy (ICSC), you may also be at risk. If you have one of these conditions and start to notice some changes to your vision, call your healthcare provider.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Anytime that you experience sudden, new symptoms, including a change to your vision, it’s a good idea to contact your healthcare provider—during pregnancy, or otherwise. There are other, serious medical conditions that can lead to vision changes.

If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar levels, as big swings can affect your vision, notes Dr. Herz. Also, if you have a history of high blood pressure, be sure to check that as well. Then call your healthcare provider.

But even if you don’t have a pre-existing condition that you’re aware of, contact your healthcare provider anyway. It’s possible that your vision is suddenly blurry because you have developed pre-eclampsia and aren’t aware of it. Spots, blurry vision, and other changes in eyesight can be a warning sign of pre-eclampsia, along with shortness of breath, a persistent headache, swelling in the face or hands, sudden weight gain, and/or pain in the shoulder or upper abdomen.

“That’s the first step: call us and let us know what’s going on, and we can figure out what the next move is,” says Dr. Reed.

A Word From Verywell

You might not even notice any vision changes while you're busy watching your belly grow and contemplating baby names. But if you do notice that your vision is blurrier than usual, don't panic. Mention it to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider and ask for feedback. Most likely, it's just a temporary, pregnancy-induced change, but just in case, it's useful to get an expert to weigh in.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ocular Changes During Pregnancy.

  2. Duran M, Güngör İ. The effect of pregnancy on tear osmolarityContact Lens and Anterior Eye. 2019;42(2):196-199. DOI:10.1016/j.clae.2018.10.007

  3. National Eye Institute. Dry Eye.

  4. Molina-Leyva I, Molina-Leyva A, Riquelme-Gallego B, Cano-Ibáñez N, García-Molina L, Bueno-Cavanillas A. Effectiveness of mediterranean diet implementation in dry eye parameters: a study of predimed-plus trialNutrients. 2020;12(5):1289. DOI:10.3390/nu12051289

  5. AAO. What Are Floaters and Flashes

  6. Preeclampsia Foundation. Signs and Symptoms.

  7. Rosenthal J, Johnson M. Management of retinal diseases in pregnant patientsJ Ophthalmic Vis Res. 2018;13(1):62. DOI:10.4103/jovr.jovr_195_17

  8. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Pregnancy and Pre-eclampsia

Additional Reading
  • Naderan M. Ocular changes during pregnancy. Journal of Current Ophthalmology. 2018;30(3):202-210.

By Jennifer Larson
Jennifer Larson is a seasoned journalist who regularly writes about hard-hitting issues like Covid-19 and the nation's ongoing mental health crisis, as well as healthy lifestyle issues like nutrition and exercise. She has more than 20 years' of professional experience and hopes to log many more.