Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) During Pregnancy
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- What Is Conjunctivitis?
- What If I Contract Conjunctivitis During Pregnancy?
- What Causes Conjunctivitis During Pregnancy?
- Common Symptoms of Pink Eye
- How to Treat Conjunctivitis When Pregnant?
- Natural/Home Remedies for Pink Eye During Pregnancy
- How to Prevent Pink Eye During Pregnancy?
- Can Conjunctivitis Affect Pregnancy?
Conjunctivitis, often referred to as pink eye, is characterized by inflammation leading to eye redness and discomfort. Its contagious nature, transmitted through close contact, makes it a concern for everyone, including expectant mothers. Experiencing pink eye during pregnancy can be more distressing due to heightened discomfort and worries about fetal health. To navigate this, it’s essential to be well-informed about preventive measures and suitable treatments. Gaining insights into managing conjunctivitis during pregnancy ensures a proactive approach to safeguard maternal and fetal well-being. This comprehensive knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions for optimal health during this delicate phase of life. Read on to learn about conjunctivitis or pink eye and pregnancy.
What Is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis is inflammation caused by a virus/bacteria that affects the conjunctiva, a thin membrane located on the inside of the eyelids and on the eye’s surface. The causes of the infection are quite a few (described below); however, the infection is common and can be transmitted easily by touch or by coming in close contact with someone with the infection. Conjunctivitis can cause eye redness, eyelid swelling, watery, yellow or green discharge from the affected eye, and a feeling like there is something like sand in the eye.
What If I Contract Conjunctivitis During Pregnancy?
There is no cause for concern since it is a common infection in pregnant women. It does not cause any long-term effects or eye damage unless ignored or if it persists beyond one week. The inflammation stays for roughly a week and resolves within 7-10 days of infection; however, the discomfort might be too irritating for pregnant women. There are medicines available that provide some respite from the burning sensation or itching in the eyes.
What Causes Conjunctivitis During Pregnancy?
Conjunctivitis may be linked to one of the following causes.
Conjunctivitis due to bacterial infections is one of the most common ways of contracting it. It causes redness in the eyes, along with itching, swelling, and yellow discharge. In some cases, bacterial conjunctivitis is accompanied by a cold, a sore throat, and at times, a respiratory infection. The most common cause of bacterial infection is wearing infected contact lenses.
Viral conjunctivitis is also a common form of pink eye. It can affect both eyes at once and usually causes redness and itching, sometimes with a slight discharge from the eyes. This form is the most easily transmitted form of conjunctivitis and can also be accompanied by other symptoms like a cold and a sore throat.
3. Seasonal Allergy
Seasonal allergens are common and are responsible for causing conjunctivitis during pregnancy. It usually happens during springtime; you’ll notice that your eyes tear up, become red and turn itchy. A pollen allergy is the most common kind of allergy that causes conjunctivitis. The inflammation is also accompanied by sneezing.
4. Foreign Body
Our eyes generally start tearing up when a foreign particle like sand, dirt, or dust enters them. Sometimes, a foreign particle can also cause conjunctivitis. In that case, you would also experience slight pain in the eye, redness, and some sort of discharge from the eyes. Conjunctivitis due to a foreign body that carries the virus/bacteria can affect both eyes as well.
5. Rubbing the Eyes
Usually, rubbing your own eyes a bit too much could lead to redness and tearing, making them susceptible to contracting conjunctivitis if you come in contact with someone who already has the infection. Also, bacteria or viruses that cause pink eye in pregnancy can be transmitted from your hands to your eyes if you do not maintain enough hygiene.
6. Physical Contact
Physical contact with a person with conjunctivitis can lead to you contracting the virus or the bacteria, as conjunctivitis spreads easily and has an incubation period of just 24 to 72 hours.
7. Hormonal Changes
Fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy can contribute to the development of conjunctivitis. Hormonal imbalances may affect the eye’s protective mechanisms, making pregnant individuals more susceptible to infections. Understanding the role of hormonal changes in conjunctivitis can help in adopting preventive measures for maintaining ocular health during pregnancy.
Common Symptoms of Pink Eye
Common symptoms of pink eye during pregnancy are (1):
- Redness accompanied by a watery or yellow discharge
- Redness and swelling in the eyes
- Increased sensitivity to bright lights
- Crusts around the eyelids
- Grittiness in the eye
- Itching and discomfort
- Painful eyes
- Blurred or reduced vision
How to Treat Conjunctivitis When Pregnant?
Here are some treatment options for conjunctivitis during pregnancy (2).
Your doctor will examine your eyes to determine the type of conjunctivitis and prescribe appropriate antibiotics. The physician only should recommend prescription antibiotics in case of bacterial conjunctivitis while pregnant since some antibiotics may harm the foetus. Hence, you must let your doctor know that you are pregnant. This also applies if you’re trying to conceive. Viral conjunctivitis does not require antibiotic treatment. Since antibiotics are avoided during pregnancy, in a 2021 study, it was found that topical ophthalmic antibiotics dispensed during the first trimester for bacterial conjunctivitis hordeola, chalazia, or blepharitis were not significantly associated with adverse neonatal outcomes.
2. Eye Drops
It is recommended to go for medically prescribed eye drops as any self-intervention or home preparation could flare up the condition. Eye drops are used for treating bacterial conjunctivitis; however, they are not very effective against chlamydial conjunctivitis. For other types of conjunctivitis, they provide respite from inflammation and also soothe your eyes.
Natural/Home Remedies for Pink Eye During Pregnancy
Natural/home remedies could help treat conjunctivitis during pregnancy. Read on to know some of them (3).
1. Warm Compress
A warm compress relieves dry eye symptoms and improves blood circulation. It also reduces inflammation and can effectively decrease the discomfort in the eyes. Having said that, you need to maintain hygiene and ensure nobody touches the used compress; else, they will contract the infection.
Rosewater soothes and cools the eyes. Many people generally use rosewater as remedial eye drops to cleanse their eyes and eliminate any particles or irritants. Use good quality, pure rosewater, though, to treat your eyes if you have inflammation.
Although rose water has anti-inflammatory properties, please remember this is a natural remedy for soothing eyes and not a medical remedy. Hence, the chances of it curing conjunctivitis are probable. Instead, you can go for medically prescribed eye drops.
3. Green Tea Bags
Tea bags are generally a great natural home remedy to care for your eyes and are especially useful to reduce the appearance of dark circles and soothe tired eyes. Dip some green tea bags in boiling water, let them cool, squeeze the water and keep them on the eyes for a few minutes daily for general tiredness. Do not transfer the tea bags from one eye to the other, and dispose of them immediately after use.
Please remember this is a natural remedy for soothing eyes and not a medical remedy. Hence, the chances of it curing conjunctivitis are probable.
4. Proper Hygiene
Hygiene plays an important role in preventing and treating conjunctivitis. Keep your hands clean at all times, and avoid touching your eyes too often. Also, use a clean, soft towel to wipe the discharge.
5. Colloidal Silver
Silver solution or colloidal silver is used for treating eye infections during pregnancy. The ointment version is preferred by most mothers and doctors. However, this is to be used only after consulting your doctor.
6. Rinsing With Saltwater Solution
Rinsing your eyes with salt water solution is another effective home remedy for conjunctivitis. Salt also has cleansing and anti-microbial properties, which can help treat pink eye. Normal saline is a better alternative because using regular water (which is not sterile, might actually do more harm than good and also, the preparation should be appropriate.
7. Raw Potatoes
This natural remedy may sound crazy, but slices of peeled fresh, raw, and cold potatoes effectively relieve sore eyes in general. Ensure you wash the potatoes thoroughly to avoid any dirt entering your eyes. Please remember this is a natural remedy for soothing eyes and not a medical remedy. Hence, the chances of it curing conjunctivitis are probable.
8. Cold Compress
Just like a warm compress, a cold compress can also provide some respite from the redness and discomfort caused by conjunctivitis. Ensure you use different washcloths for each eye to prevent the infection from transmitting. You may avoid this remedy if you have a cold, a fever, or if you suffer from sinusitis.
9. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera, in general, helps reduce inflammation. Apply some aloe vera gel on your eyelids and keep them for a few minutes. The gel helps cool the eyes and reduces itching and swelling around the eyes. Make sure the gel does not come in contact with the inner eye. Since this is a natural home remedy for treating sore eyes, it does not eliminate the infection per se.
Turmeric, in general, is another home remedy to treat sore eyes. Take two tablespoons of turmeric powder and mix it in a cup of boiling water. Use a washcloth or cotton pad, and apply the mixture over your eyelids. Make sure the mixture does not come in contact with the inner eye. Since this is a natural home remedy for treating sore eyes, it does not reduce the infection.
How to Prevent Pink Eye During Pregnancy?
You can prevent pink eye during pregnancy by taking the following measures –
- Avoid sharing eye drops, eye wipes, and cosmetics with others.
- Avoid physical contact with people with inflammation.
- Protect your eyes with glasses; prevent dust particles and dirt from entering the eyes.
- Wash your hands and maintain hygiene.
- Clean and disinfect eyeglasses regularly.
- Change pillowcases and bed linens frequently.
- Avoid touching your face and eyes with unwashed hands.
- Use a humidifier to maintain optimal moisture levels in indoor environments.
- Ensure proper ventilation in living spaces to reduce the concentration of airborne irritants.
- Steer clear of crowded places or environments where the risk of exposure to infectious agents is higher.
- Be cautious with personal items like towels and tissues; use disposable tissues and dispose of them properly to minimize the risk of contamination.
Can Conjunctivitis Affect Pregnancy?
Any treatment advised by the doctor, whether pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment is the safest during pregnancy to avoid risks and complications for the mother and the baby, as a mother’s immunity is fragile. The non-pharmacological approach is often undertaken to reduce the risk of exposure of medicines on the unborn child and their metabolites. Do not self-medicate, as it can pose the risk of causing complications. Also, avoid wearing contact lenses until the condition eliminates fully, as it could flare up pink eye.
Conjunctivitis goes away naturally in a matter of weeks. If you notice it persisting for over a week, contact your doctor and seek immediate treatment.
1. Symptoms- Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/about/symptoms.html
2. Mackensen. F, Paulus. W. E, Max. R, Ness. T; Ocular Changes During Pregnancy; Dtsch Arztebl Int.; PubMed Central; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165189/; August 2014
3. Home Treatments for Conjunctivitis; NYU Langone Health; https://nyulangone.org/conditions/conjunctivitis/treatments/home-treatments-for-conjunctivitis
4. Hashimoto. Y, Michihata, N, Yamana H, et al.; Safety of topical ophthalmic antibiotics in pregnant women with hordeola, chalazia, blepharitis, or bacterial conjunctivitis: propensity score analyses; Eye 36, 1066–1073, Nature Portfolio; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41433-021-01586-y; May 2021
5. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis); Cleveland Clinic; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8614-pink-eye
6. Gudge; T. H; Quick Home Remedies for Pink Eye; American Academy of Ophthalmology; https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pink-eye-quick-home-remedies; April 2023
7. Conjunctivitis; Pregnancy, Birth & Baby; https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/conjunctivitis
8. Kuennen. R; 4 things you need to know about pink eye; Wexner Medical Center; https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/4-things-you-need-to-know-about-pink-eye; September 2018
9. Conjunctivitis in pregnancy: case study; The Pharmaceutical Journal; https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/ld/conjunctivitis-in-pregnancy-case-study; August 2017