Changes in hormone levels and variations in blood pressure are commonplace during pregnancy. This causes an increase in water retention and blood volume that can affect the eyes in a number of ways. Most of these changes are temporary and return to normal a few months after giving birth or stopping breastfeeding:
Dry eye – changes in hormone levels can reduce tear quality, leading to poor coverage and exposure of the eye surface. It has also been reported that the clear window at the front of the eye (cornea) may be more sensitive and easily irritated in later stages of pregnancy
Puffy eyelids – water retention that causes swollen ankles and feet can also cause swelling of the eyelids. This can be reduced by sleeping more upright and applying cold compresses to the closed eyes.
Changes in vision – fluid retention can cause swelling of the clear window at the front of the eye (cornea) and the lens inside the eye. The change in their shape and thickness can lead to increased in short-sightedness (or reduction in long-sightedness) or affect the focusing ability of the eyes. The changes are small and temporary, but it is advisable to delay spectacle updates or corrective laser eye surgical procedures until hormone levels have normalised.
Increased pigmentation – usually noticed on the skin around the eyes and face, also called ‘melisma’ or the ‘mask of pregnancy’