Can I Have LASIK If I’m Pregnant?Author: Dr. Eric Donnenfeld
October 31, 2019
If you are expecting a baby (or planning to become pregnant soon), and considering LASIK eye surgery, it is important to know what is considered safe for expectant and new moms. Of course, you want the clearest vision possible to see your little bundle of joy and you may already know the possible development of contact lens discomfort during gestation—but is pregnancy the best time to consider undergoing a LASIK procedure? There are several reasons that LASIK is not generally advisable during pregnancy and breastfeeding timepoints.
The Connections Between Pregnancy and Vision
In a pregnant woman, altered hormonal activities will help to nurture the developing fetus. Examples of these hormones are HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin), progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin and prolactin. Additionally, these hormones also prepare a mother's body for labor and nursing.
On the other hand, these hormone level changes may also cause instability in glasses and contact lens prescriptions, which can cause inaccuracies in LASIK outcome. This is the reason why a stable glasses prescription is one of the entry requirements to qualify for LASIK.
How Hormonal Changes May Impact Glasses Prescription
Research has shown that glasses and contact lens prescription powers can change in some patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The exact mechanisms of change are unknown but could be related to fluid retention and resultant corneal swelling, which can alter corneal curvature and/or tissue thickness. The shape of corneal tissue dictates how light rays are focused on the retinal photoreceptors in the back of the eye; thus, its shape is a critical component in determining one’s vision and corresponding prescriptive power requirements.
In some of the pregnant mothers, the corneal shape changes can be significant and lead to vision changes. When such clinical scenarios are observed, expecting moms will require a prescription change in glasses or contact lenses. After pregnancy, hormone levels will continue to change, which is why nursing mothers may continue to experience vision changes. These optical changes may be temporary or permanent; either way, they will make LASIK results less predictable and patients are more likely to require additional surgical corrections (or enhancement).
Pregnancy, Dry eyes And Contact Lens Tolerance
Pregnancy may also cause decreased tear production, leading some women to experience dry eyes and increasing contact lens discomfort. Given subsequent tear film disruptions on the eye surface, pregnant women can potentially experience visual fluctuations as well as slower post-LASIK recovery.
Potential Medical Complications During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can also lead to vision changes by inducing development or worsening of medical conditions such as diabetes and pre-clampsia (uncontrolled high blood pressure during pregnancy). These conditions need to be carefully managed to prevent long term damages to the eyes, which would also be another reason to defer LASIK during pregnancy and/or nursing.
Medications During and After LASIK
LASIK patients often will receive a mild sedative, such as a low-dose Percocet or Valium, prior to the LASIK to enhance patient comfort during the short procedure. It’s recommended for pregnant women to avoid taking such medications when not medically necessary. In addition, LASIK patients are typically given two medication eye drops to use during first week after treatment – one to prevent eye infections (antibiotic eye drop) and the other to reduce inflammation (steroid eye drop). The exact effects of these eye medications on pregnant women and fetus are either unknown or not well-established.
Unlike the oral sedative that can be optional, the two eye drops are mandatory standard of care treatments. Thus, deferring LASIK for pregnant women can ensure best LASIK results as well as avoid impacting the health of mothers and their babies
Exposure to Excimer Laser Energy During LASIK
During a LASIK procedure, the excimer laser that accomplishes the refractive correction will emit a small amount of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation energy. While this is not typically a concern for most patients, the effect of this short exposure has not been tested in pregnant women. In order to avoid potential unknown risks to developing fetus, pregnant or nursing women are always encouraged to avoid such UV exposure.
How Long Should You Wait After Delivery Before LASIK
The exact answer will differ pending the clinical preferences of your eye doctor and/or the LASIK specialist. Most physicians recommend waiting for at least one menstrual period, either after birthing (if breastfeeding is not planned) or after nursing has been stopped. However, the exact timing will also depend on the stability of your glasses prescriptions and other pre-operative test results. It may be expected that your LASIK specialist will want to see you for an additional exam visit for consistency and to ensure best possible long-term LASIK success for you.
What You Can Do Now
So, if you are expecting (or plan to be), but want to have LASIK eye surgery in the near future, what can you do now?
You can start your research!
- Dive into the available procedures in the world of LASIK eye surgery—traditional, bladeless LASIK, PRK, Contoura LASIK, etc.
- Research LASIK providers in your area. Ask your eye doctor for a referral to a trusted provider.
- Look into your financing options.
- Create a list of questions to take with you to your LASIK consultation.
- Don’t forget to ask your eye doctor or the LASIK provider to see how long you are recommended to wait after pregnancy before considering LASIK.
It may be hard to wait once you have your heart set on LASIK eye surgery, but it’s best for your body to wait until after pregnancy and nursing. Thanks to the quick procedure and fast recovery time, LASIK eye surgery will help you achieve your vision goals without missing time with your baby.