Pregnancy causes most parts of a woman’s body to change, and the eyes are no exception. Dry eye is a common pregnancy ailment that usually begins toward the end of the first trimester. It will usually continue throughout the pregnancy and possibly for a few months after the baby’s birth. In addition to dry eye, other subtle eye changes can occur during pregnancy, causing irritation and sometimes difficulty wearing contact lenses.
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Hormonal changes, particularly a decline of the male androgen hormone, cause dry eye, according to the BabyCentre.co.uk website. Because these hormonal levels remain constant during delivery and nursing, women who nurse may continue to experience dry eye symptoms. In addition to dry eyes, many women report the feeling of their eyes burning or that there is something gritty in them. Other women experience light sensitivity and eye itchiness. Pregnant women with dry eye should use lubricating or rewetting eye drops to provide symptom relief.
Decreased Tear Production
The hormonal changes caused by pregnancy usually causes decreased tear production, according to the Natural Eye Care website. A smaller volume of tears directly translates into dryer eyes.
Oil Gland Production
A woman’s oil glands act differently during pregnancy than they would normally. These gland changes cause many pregnant women to develop acne. For others, the SheKnows Pregnancy and Baby website points out, they block the lipid and oil production used in eye lubrication. This reduction in lipids and oils actually changes the consistency of a woman’s tears. As a result, there is nothing to prevent the eyelids from rubbing against the eye when blinking, which contributes to dry eye. Pregnant women can apply hot compresses to the eye region in an attempt to temporarily open blocked oil glands.
While most women experience a decrease in tear production with dry eye, some experience the opposite. Some will experience increased tearing when the irritated ocular surface reflexively creates poor quality tears, according to SheKnows Pregnancy and Baby, in an attempt to lubricate the eye and eliminate the irritant.