Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 07/29/19 5:50 PM
Upon his visit to Jurassic Park, the famous mathematician Jeff Goldblum once said, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” That quote always stuck with me. It probably had something to do with his cool leather jacket and sunglasses. Whatever the reason, the idea is something I bump into on an almost daily basis working in a LASIK practice. It is all too common to meet someone for whom the answer to the question “could I get LASIK?” and the answer to “should I get LASIK?” are different. This is the issue in almost every case of a woman who is pregnant or nursing.
There have been many, many times where someone got LASIK while they were pregnant. Neither they nor their surgeon knew about the pregnancy at the time, but LASIK happened regardless. And guess what happens in those cases? It goes great! Those women experience eight months of eagle-eyed pregnancy. A baby is born and gets a name like John if the parents are regular levels of hipness, or Booker, if the parents are super hip. Everyone’s happy and healthy and great. So clearly, you can get LASIK when you’re pregnant. And if you can get it when you’re sharing a circulatory system with your baby, it follows that it’s probably fine when you’re nursing as well.
Should You Get LASIK During Pregnancy or Nursing?
But the crucial question here is whether or not you should. There’s a period of time through pregnancy and nursing where most of the medical world agrees you shouldn’t. The reason may not be the one you think. The idea that prescriptions change when pregnant or nursing and stay changed after is really overblown. There are changes to vision just like there are changes to just about every other organ system, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is temporary. Those changes are waves under a ship and not a change in course. A more familiar comparison would be the rarity (but known existence) of gestational diabetes. Because even though it is rare, it is vastly more unlikely for someone to remain diabetic after pregnancy. The same general idea applies to glasses prescriptions. LASIK, though, should wait till after having a child for a different reason.
The drops you get during a dilated exam, as well as the drops you use for a week after LASIK, all fall into the same category of risk to babies. We are positive it isn’t known to cause problems, but we don’t know that it definitely can’t. For that reason, we never risk it. Even if the odds of causing a problem for your baby could be zero, we don’t have a way to know it as a certainty. Since the downside is waiting a year to have LASIK, it seems like relatively small amount of inconvenience to have peace of mind about something—or more accurately, someone—of exceedingly greater importance.
If you happen to get LASIK and then have babies after, you can rest assured knowing that road has been traveled tens of thousands of times before you. I don’t know any ophthalmologist who believes women shouldn’t have LASIK until they’ve decided they are done having children. There may be a few who say that, but my guess is they are pretty resistant to technology in general. The truth is with the advances available today, the question of whether you could and should have something you want is often times yes to both. For you that may mean LASIK. For me it feels like I could and probably should start wearing a cool leather jacket and sunglasses everywhere.