Visual disturbance is a condition that occurs during pregnancy. It can cause problems with focus, due to the extra bodily fluids that can cause the eyeballs to change shape; or the affected woman may see flashing lights, dots, floating shapes or blurring in her field of vision. Headaches may also accompany visual disturbance.
While most cases of visual disturbance are likely to be benign, it is important to report any disturbances to a midwife or doctor. Visual disturbance can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition affecting around three per cent of pregnancies. If left unmanaged, pre-eclampsia can cause the death of both mother and baby, and any woman who reports visual disturbance will be assessed for this condition.
However, visual disturbance can also be a sign of other conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension). Around 10 per cent of pregnant women will suffer from high blood pressure, normally in the last few weeks of pregnancy. For this reason, blood pressure is routinely monitored by midwives at antenatal checks.
A woman suffering from high blood pressure will also be assessed for pre-eclampsia. However, in the majority of cases, high blood pressure will be caused by the pregnancy itself and can be treated with plenty of rest and relaxation exercises.
In the days after the birth, visual disturbance can be caused by a lack of sleep and the associated exhaustion, but the condition should always be discussed with a midwife, health visitor or doctor both during and after pregnancy.