Can you get LASIK while pregnant?
This is an excellent question and one that frequently comes up with my female patients of childbearing age. Questions that you may have as you plan your LASIK and as you plan your family are:
- LASIK before pregnancy?
- LASIK during pregnancy?
- Pregnancy after LASIK?
LASIK while Pregnant
LASIK eye surgery and pregnancy can coexist. In general there are two big questions to consider:
- Will LASIK surgery while you are pregnant affect your baby?
- Will pregnancy affect your previous LASIK surgery?
I’ll respond to the first question regarding LASIK eye surgery while pregnant. I don’t believe that having LASIK eye surgery while pregnant will affect your baby. However, the “standard of care“ which is what a reasonable physician would do under similar circumstances, is to wait to have LASIK until after your pregnancy. It’s the general consensus (standard of care) that it is not recommended to do LASIK while you are pregnant. I have inadvertently performed LASIK on at least one patient who did not know that she was pregnant at the time of the LASIK, but then informed us that she had had a LASIK pregnancy, or LASIK while pregnant. Other physicians state that they have done the same but will not knowingly perform LASIK on pregnant women. There are no known reasons why not to, but it’s just generally recommended to wait to have LASIK until after your pregnancy because the risk to benefit is unknown. So why not wait? I agree with this but don’t require a pregnancy test in my female patients of child-bearing age (although I have heard of this practice). In short, the answer to the question “can you get Lasik while pregnant?“ is “yes“ but should not in my opinion. Remember the difference between “can” and “should”. LASIK and pregnancy should not mix. Hopefully this helps answer the questions of LASIK eye surgery while pregnant.
Pregnancy after LASIK
The answer to the question “Will pregnancy affect your prior LASIK surgery?“ is difficult to find, so I’ll discuss it in terms of my 25 years of experience and over 85,000 LASIK surgeries performed. I’m asked this question about LASIK eye surgery in pregnancy very frequently and here’s what I say. Over my career I have had maybe three women say something to the effect of: “I had Lasik surgery, saw perfectly then got pregnant several years later. My eyes changed during pregnancy, got slightly blurrier, and remained that way after my pregnancy.” However, I’ve had many other patients (approximately 1% per year average) whose vision has blurred slightly years after their LASIK procedure. Because the number of patients whose vision blurs slightly years after their LASIK procedure is 1% and the women who have had a similar experience but combined it with pregnancy, my hypothesis is that pregnancy does not affect your LASIK. The number is so low that it is most likely just chance. Statisticians face this question with every cause:effect question: are the results simply due to chance or is there a cause:effect relationship? My hypothesis is: “No, pregnancy does not affect the LASIK procedure before, during or after pregnancy, but shouldn’t be done during pregnancy.
The distilled words I have for my female patients are: Have your Lasik when you want to have your LASIK and have your family when you want to have your family. As long as you’re not pregnant at the time of your LASIK procedure, then I would proceed.
LASIK while nursing
Having LASIK while you are nursing your baby is a somewhat controversial issue among LASIK surgeons. Generally there is no reason why you need to wait to have LASIK until you are done nursing. I think that is extremely conservative, however I know some of my colleagues will not perform LASIK on a nursing mother. Their rationale is the same as for pregnancy: why not wait? My thinking is that the eyedrops that we use are the only medication that could potentially adversely affect your baby, but very little of the eye drop medication is absorbed into your bloodstream, very little of the medication in your bloodstream makes it to your breast milk, and even if your baby received a few molecules of the medication, none are known to be toxic to newborns or older. Therefore my conclusion is that there is no risk to your baby whatsoever. We also give a sedative called diazepam (Valium) that could theoretically sedate your baby through your breast milk. Again this is a stretch to think this would even happen, but we recommend discarding breast milk for a 12-hour period following your consumption of Valium prior to the procedure. Alternatively, you could just not take the Valium. Usually there’s some anxiety about the procedure, but once we’ve done LASIK it seems very easy in hindsight. It’s certainly easier than childbirth by a long shot!