Dry Eye in Pregnancy: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

You knew you’d have to give up lots of things while pregnant — all definitely…

You knew you’d have to give up lots of things while pregnant — all definitely worth it, of course — but wearing contact lenses wasn’t on that list!

Yes, your dry eyes may be linked to your pregnancy.

You can have dry eye syndrome when you’re not pregnant, but during pregnancy, dry, gritty eyes are caused by your roller-coaster hormones. Oh, the irony: Pregnancy hormones that can make you teary-eyed one minute can give you dry eyes the next!

Don’t worry. Having dry eyes during pregnancy is annoying but otherwise harmless. And it’ll likely go away a few weeks after you give birth, when your hormone levels balance out.

Here’s what to know about dry eyes while pregnant, as well as what you can do about it.

Dry eyes during pregnancy (or at any time) can give you lots of different symptoms, including some you might not expect. You’ll probably have dry eye symptoms in both eyes, but you can also get them in just one eye. They include:

  • redness
  • watery eyes (it sounds counterintuitive, but this happens as your body tries to fix the problem!)
  • soreness or tenderness
  • itchiness
  • a burning or stinging sensation
  • grittiness or feeling like something is in your eyes
  • sticky eyelids or eyelids that are stuck closed when you wake up
  • difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • mucus or white, stringy pus in or around the eyes
  • sensitivity to light
  • poor nighttime vision
  • blurred vision
  • tired eyes or eye fatigue

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that can happen to anyone. It normally happens when your eyes don’t make enough tears — or the right kind of tears — to stay moist and comfortable.

Your tears aren’t just water. They’re made up of water, mucus, and fatty oils. This finely balanced mixture helps keep your eyes moist and clean. If your body doesn’t make enough tears or the tear mixture changes, you can get dry eyes.

Dry eyes during pregnancy usually happen because your hormones are off the charts. Hormonal changes are important for a healthy pregnancy, but they can cause side effects like dry eyes.

If you’re pregnant and suddenly have dry eyes, it’s normally because pregnancy hormones are making your body produce fewer tears.

One study found that pregnancy causes eye and tear changes throughout the 9 months, as well as that you may have less concentrated tears in your last trimester, compared with earlier in your pregnancy.

More research is needed on why this happens, but it might have something to do with protecting the eyes from pressure changes that also happen in pregnancy.

Other risk factors for dry eyes during pregnancy include:

  • wearing contact lenses
  • dehydration
  • being indoors with the heat or fan on
  • being outside in the sunlight
  • being outside in the cold or wind
  • not eating enough vitamin-A-rich foods
  • not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet

The following strategies may help prevent dry eyes during pregnancy:

  • drinking plenty of water, especially if you’re vomiting
  • eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • taking a prenatal vitamin (and other supplements if recommended by your OB-GYN or midwife)
  • using a humidifier at home to get rid of dry air
  • keeping plants in your home to help keep the air moist and fresh
  • wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors to protect your eyes from the sun and wind
  • avoiding staring at screens too long

And try these three home remedies to help soothe dry eye symptoms:

  • Massage your eyes. Wash your hands and gently massage your closed eyelids by rolling your fingertip over them. This can help encourage more tear production in your eyes.
  • Wash your eyes. Cool boiled water to make your own sterile solution to clean your eyes. Soak a cotton pad in the water and dab it over your closed eyes. Start in the corner of your eyes and go over both your upper and lower eyelids. (This is also good practice for when you have to clean your baby’s eyes!)
  • Mist your face. Make a natural face mist to moisten your face and eyes. Combine sterile water and pure rose water. Keep it in a spray bottle and mist your face whenever you need to freshen up dry, tired eyes. This solution smells so good, it’ll double as a natural perfume!

Ask your healthcare provider about the best eye drops to use to prevent dry eyes during pregnancy. Most lubricating or moisturizing eye drops (also called artificial tears) are safe to use while you’re pregnant.

Make sure you don’t use any kind of medicated eye drops. Double-check the ingredients and ask your provider if you’re not sure.

It’s best to avoid wearing contact lenses and stick to your glasses. If you need to wear contact lenses, try cleaning them more often to prevent them from drying out.

Some eye changes during pregnancy can be more serious than just dry eyes.

Inform your healthcare provider immediately if you feel pressure in your eyes or have eye pain. Eye symptoms can indicate that something serious is going on, such as preeclampsia. Seek medical attention if you have eye symptoms like:

  • blurred vision
  • changes in color vision
  • seeing auras or halos
  • seeing flashing lights
  • floaters
  • dark spots in your field of vision
  • the inability to focus
  • temporary or quick bursts of blindness

You may be at higher risk of serious eye changes during pregnancy if you have any of the following health conditions:

Let your OB-GYN know right away if you have severe morning sickness or vomiting. If you’re finding it difficult to keep food and water down, you might get dehydrated quickly. Your provider may recommend medications or an overnight stay in the hospital if you’re dehydrated.

Pregnancy can cause other eye changes besides dry eyes. If your vision seems consistently blurry, tell your OB-GYN right away. You might just need new glasses, as pregnancy hormones can give you dry eyes and change your vision slightly. These pregnancy symptoms will typically go back to normal once you’ve had your baby.

Dry eyes during pregnancy are common and usually harmless. They’ll typically go away on their own a few weeks after you deliver your little one. You can help soothe dry eye symptoms with moistening eye drops and other home remedies.

Pregnancy hormones can cause lots of eye changes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider about all your eye symptoms during pregnancy. Dry eyes are usually not serious, but other eye changes might be a sign of a more serious condition like high blood pressure.