Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cataract Surgery and Pregnancy

**This is a personal story told from a patient point of view, not for medical advice.**
       In January of 2014 I learned that my Retina Detached in my Left eye. It was a shock that just happened out of the blue without any conditions or circumstances which would normally bring this type of thing on. I was, otherwise, a healthy 35 year old woman! You can read the story about my detached retina and surgery HERE!
       After the surgery I had a gas bubble in my left eye which basically kept me blind, only seeing light, for over a month and a half. As the gas SLOWLY cleared I could start seeing over the bubble. It took over 2 1/2 months for the gas to completely clear. This gas created a large cataract on my natural lens which made the vision in my left eye hazy and warped. I like to give the analogy of someone blowing hot air on a window and fogging up the glass as a similarity to what a cataract looks like on your natural lens.
       Since January, for the past 8 months, my vision in my left eye has been horrible. I had to wait this long to make sure my retina reattached and healed properly before they let me have another surgery. When it finally became time to have a consult with a Cataract Surgeon I was pregnant with my 4th child. (See our birth announcement HERE!) My retina surgeon said that most Doctors wouldn't want to do any procedure on me while I was pregnant but he sent me for a consult anyways. I met with Dr. Christopher Ketcherside who came highly recommended to me in the Kansas City area. (If you live around this area, I definitely recommend him for cataract surgery!!!) After meeting with him the first time he really advised to wait until after I had my baby to have my surgery. I told him a few of my reasons why I wanted to have the surgery BEFORE I have my child. 
  1. I want to look on my baby with CLEAR eyes when I see him the first time!
  2. After the surgery you have to take it easy for the first two weeks! The first week you aren't even supposed to lift anything over 20 lbs. This would be impossible for me since my babies are normally chubby and I solely nurse for the first 6 months of their life. This would push back the surgery for at least a year or more.
  3. Lastly, I maxed out my deductible in the beginning of the year with my retina surgery so I would have a lot less out of pocket to pay getting it gone in 2014!
       After discussing all of these things with Dr. Ketcherside he said it was ultimately my decision when it came to doing the surgery pregnant or not! I then talked to my OBGYN about the procedure to see if she was concerned about anything. She brought up the fact that your eyes slightly change during pregnancy and that would be her only concern. She didn't seem worried about any of the eyedrops, used during and prescribed after, effecting my baby. You might not know this but it's not advised to have corrective eye surgery, like Lasik, while you are pregnant because your prescription sometimes changes.
       Since I was concerned that I was making the right decision by having cataract surgery while pregnant, I decided to look it up online…. Maybe I could learn or feel more at ease if I knew of someone else who had the procedure done while they were pregnant. I literally found NOTHING! First of all, most people who have cataract surgery are over 60 so to find someone who was younger writing about their experience with the procedure would be rare in itself….BUT then for them to be PREGNANT! NOPE….nothing. It doesn't mean it's never happened, it's just that no one has ever blogged about it before and this obviously didn't help me feel any better. However, when I went back in to have measurements done on my eye they basically explained that just because I am pregnant the measurements they were talking to fit me with a new lens should still be accurate. I made my decision to have the surgery after hearing this information. 
       Now, that I knew I was going to have the surgery I had to listen to my options of lenses. This is probably your hardest decision because it will determine how you will see out of that eye for the rest of your life. I am only 35 so, Lord willing, I got a lot more life to live. My doctor said that because I was so young, I was a good candidate for the multifocal lens. I had heard bad reviews from a friend who works with a Retina surgeon so I was very against getting it. However, the doctor actually said that if he were me, this is what he would get for himself. Since he was the one doing the surgery I trusted his judgement and went with what he suggested! HERE'S THE CATCH, Insurance companies only cover a basic lens. If you chose anything else you have to pay for it. Ok, so what was I looking at!?! $2500 for one lens….paid up front!!!! WOW! I'm still in shock from that but how can you put a price on your vision even if you have the money or not.
       Here I am,  6 months pregnant, on the morning of my cataract surgery. My husband and I were actually making jokes about taking pictures like this before cataracts surgery. "Who does this"!?! LOL "Hey, I DO…. because I have to blog about it." =)
       Cataract surgery is normally a quick procedure done in about 10 minutes with just local anesthesia, however, because I am pregnant I did the surgery without any medication except numbing drops and one shot to the eye. I would say the hardest part to this would be the fact that you have to wait so long while they are preparing you for your turn. Getting your eye dilated and numb enough takes a while and I could see anesthesia helping to make time pass quicker. 
       Other than the waiting, the other part that I wasn't prepared for was the cover they put over your face for surgery. They make you hold your eye open while they lay a blue cloth like thing over your face. Then they press it to the eye that you are having the surgery on. They cut away a hole where your eye is but this sticky paper is what holds your eye open for the procedure. A nurse made sure to push the paper down all around my eye so it stuck REALLY WELL! You have a crazy urge to blink BUT you can't!!! The nurse was there squirting something in my eye every 10 seconds or so to keep it wet. The rest of my face and mouth were covered! Even though I had oxygen in my nose, I felt like I couldn't breath because the paper was touching my lips. I asked that she move it up a little from my mouth but it just fell right back down. I ended up using my tongue to push the paper off my lips. Now I know why they asked if I was claustrophobic before I went in the surgery room.
       Once the doctor was there I felt a lot better cause I knew things were going to be over quickly. The actual procedure wasn't too bad. The shot in the eye hurt a little and the light was pretty bright but it was all for a wonderful cause. THAT PAPER AROUND MY EYE, HOWEVER,…… OMG... once everything was over it had to be pealed off, SLOWLY! That was the worst part of it! 
       I contemplated not putting this HIDEOUS picture of me after me surgery for the world to see but here I am …. I had to wear a clear eye shield for 24 hours and also at night for the first week to keep my eye protected.
       After 8 months, it feels like the fog has been lifted from my vision!!! I think i am going to be satisfied with the Multifocal lens once thing heal. My eye still isn't perfect.  I went in for tests the day after surgery and I was a little frustrated that I couldn't see better than what I was seeing. The doctor said that as I heal my vision should keep getting better. He also explained to me the importance of me keeping calm, not lifting anything over 20 lbs, and not bending over for the first week or two after surgery. When he did my surgery he made a little incision in my eye,  cut open the "sack" that held my lens in it, pulled out my old lens, and then placed the new lens in the "sack". They don't stitch up the cuts made to the eye…. they just let them heal on their own. So if I lift something heavy or rub my eye, I could break the "sack" and my new lens could just fall back into my eye. SCARY!!! There is also a big risk for infection whig is why I have three different eye drops to use right now.
       I know that there are many more young people out there with eye issues and there has to be more pregnant women along with that statistic. I hope that this will help to ease someones mind about having a procedure done while pregnant. At least in my personal case, my baby is still doing great! Because of my particular situation with my retina detachment, there are still a few more smaller procedures, with a laser, that I will have to go through after my eye heals. But I would say I am on my way to seeing "almost" as good as before everything started in January. I will keep everyone posted on my progress throughout the next few months. To all of my friends…. Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and support throughout this crazy process. I couldn't have done it without you.


  1. Congratulations on a successful surgery! It’s great that you’ve gone through it in a very positive manner. It's a good thing that you coordinated with your eye doctor and OB about the eye surgery, since your baby’s health could also be at risk. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing this post with us, Colleen. All the best!

    Jason Hayes @ DECORM

    1. Thank you Jason! Everything went great and my baby is a very healthy chunky 3 month old now! I couldn't be more blessed! I tried to be as positive as I could since there was nothing I could really do about my eye situation except do what the drs said to try and fix things! I had another lazer procedure and I am now wearing a contact over that eye until I am done nursing my baby, in two years, then I will have Lasik and hopefully I will be seeing a lot closer to "normal"!

    2. Anonymous3/27/2015

      Hi Colleen,
      Thank you so much for posting this info! I am scheduled to have cataract surgery in a few weeks. I am 37 years old & will be 15 weeks pregnant when the surgery is done. (I actually have to have both eyes done). I have been a little worried about having the surgery during pregnancy & also worried if the drops I am supposed to use after surgery would have an effect on the baby. Do you remember the names of the drops you used? I would rather not have any anesthesia for the procedure, especially after reading that your experience wasn't very bad, but my eye doctor prefers that I have something. Thanks again for this post, and I'm glad your surgery went well!

      Christie W.

    3. Christie,
      Yeah! I am sooooo happy you found me! You are exactly the type of person I wanted to read this post! It why I took the time to write it! I don't remember the names of my drops but Ican find out and reply later!
      I would consider not having anesthesia! That is what I would worry about... Not the drops! They numb your eyes really well and you even get a shot in your eye so you should be fine!
      I hope all goes well for you!
      May I ask why you need the surgery? Did something happen before for you to get cateracts?

    4. Anonymous3/27/2015

      I have a family history of cataracts. My mom & aunt both had cataract surgeries in their mid 30s. I actually had cataract surgery scheduled in February, but 5 days before the surgery, I had a positive pregnancy test (suprise!) So I cancelled the surgery until after I could discuss it with my OB. We decided to wait until after 1st trimester to have it done, but my OB & the opthamologist both seem to think it should be fine to do during pregnancy. I am in the same boat you were as far as weighing the options for waiting til after pregnancy. (Deductible, breastfeeding for 10-12 months, and would like to finally have clear vision!) I will definitely talk to the opthamologist about no anesthesia though!
      My OB actually requested that I not take one of the drops the eye doctor had prescribed (it was the one for pain & inflammation -Ilevro), and wanted a different antibiotic drop prescribed. (Originally it was going to be Ofloxacin, but now it is going to be neosporin or polytrim drops), but he said the steroid drops were ok. I think he is being very careful - but thats ok with me!
      I am so glad you wrote this post. I wondered if there had ever been another pregnant woman who needed cataract surgery. I know its usually a problem for older people. I also read your post about your detached retina - wow! That would have been scary. So glad everything has worked out for you! Thanks again!

    5. Christie,
      I will say, I remember my OB saying that any of the drops they prescribe would be fine... It's so little and shouldn't effect the baby! I know i had a ton of drops and my baby is perfect! 😉
      Cataract is so horrible but right after surgery it will be CLEAR!!! What lens are you going with? The multifocal is really turning out to be a good choice for me... I have to wait to have Lasic on the eye until after I stop nursing my baby.... So in about two more years I will do that but for now I am wearing a contact to make it as clear as possible! It's so tough to have eye problems!

      Well, I pray everything goes well with your surgery and your baby is growing and healthy!

  2. THANK YOU for blogging your experience! I have been googling like a mad woman looking for someone who has shared their experience. I found out a week ago I have cataracts in both eyes, left eye very fast progressing. I'm nursing my 10 month old and thought my poor vision was hormonal but went in just to check since I was planning on getting pregnant again. I was told I probably have cataracts from having gestational diabetes. I was shocked by the news especially since my numbers were very well controlled with diet alone. I'm actually weaning my daughter and am down to just morning and night feedings. I'll find out in a couple days if I'm pregnant... If I am I will probably wait until the 2nd trimester. I'm going with the restor multifocal lens as well. One ophthalmologist was going to charge $4800 per eye above insurance because of the upgraded lens. We found another highly rated dr that will charge $2850 per eye... Praying for the best. My left eye is being done next week. As hard as it is to admit it I'm totally nervous about this. My biggest fear being infection after the surgery especially since I had a skin infection which abscessed after delivery, also probably due to gestational diabetes, the gift that keeps giving.... Anyway thanks again for sharing your experience!!

    1. Ashley, thank you for the comment! It seems like such a rare thing to go through! I'm glad through the internet we can all come together to share experiences. I hope it gives you a little relief to know everything was ok with me and my baby! <3
      I nurse all my babies till at least two years old. I am actually still waiting to have one more procedure on my eye. They didn't want to do it till I stopped nursing. Normally the price you pay for the eye includes every procedure to fix the eye after cataract surgery. my surgeon wants to do a form of Lasic so I won't have to wear a contact anymore. But for now I just got fitted for a contact to make it through the short transition. 4800 PER EYE IS OUTRAGEOUS!!!! Im glad you found another doctor! I wish you good luck and would love you to comment on how everything goes after its all done! This is not just for me but for others wanting to read experiences!!! PRAYING for no infection after surgery! <3

  3. Yes! THANK YOU COLLEEN! SO very thankful you wrote about your experience - no kidding about zero out there about this - I mean it's so rare this young for all of us then being pregnant - talk about being clueless (this is where I just LOVE the internet)... then there's your experience and now two other women - what a RELIEF!

    I'm 40 and we are just 6 weeks pregnant with a fast progressing cataract... and a history of two miscarriages in under a year - so I'm weary to say the least about ANYTHING that would contribute to effecting the baby. However, I seriously CAN'T see... it's such a depressing decrease in the quality of life. I engage in extended breastfeeding (still BF my almost 3 year old) so there's always going to be some reason I can't have surgery. I just need to put SELF-CARE at a high priority and this article is allowing for a little outside of the box thinking - YES... (long sigh)... we NEED to take care of ourselves as mamas! While I will wait another month and a half or so I think (until a bit into second trimester) I will explore the option of having the surgery so that I can SEE and not risk it progressing further. The neat thing about this is that the right eye is -8.5 anyway so this will be a vast improvement - so thrilling!

    I also appreciated the comments proceeding about eye drops and the experience about anesthesia (which being kind of a crunchy organic mama I won't eat GMO much less take in any anesthesia). Just hearing it is doable with just drops and you did alright despite the claustrophobia (sounds like you managed pretty well actually and made the best of that annoying flap over your mouth). So just thank you, it is helpful... beautiful reminder that our stories, our life DOES have the power to effect each other in profound ways - stunning!

    1. Jessica,
      Thank you so much for your comment! You are right, the internet is SO AWESOME for the purpose of sharing our stories and being able to unite one another! I seriously thought I was one of the only women going through this!!! I am happy my story can help people feel more comfortable getting the surgery. I am so happy I got it done BEFORE my baby arrived! I pray that everything goes well with this pregnancy and cataract surgery! I would love you to come back and tell how everything goes. This is also for the benefit of others reading that might be going through the same thing! <3

  4. Thank you for your post!! I had a retinal detachment in my left eye and had 3 surgeries to have it fixed. I later developed a cataract. When I found out I was pregnant last year my eye surgeon told me Hell no due to the drugs they use since it caused birth defects. I wish they would have given me an alternative. Fast forward nine months, I went in two months after having my baby in July thinking that I can have the surgery but they tell me I can't since I am breastfeeding. I went on line to see if they had anyone who was young and having cataract surgery but I couldn't find anything. I am so happy to come across your blog!!

    1. My retina surgeon did tell me that cataract surgeons normally don't want to touch you if you are pregnant! But now all you are doing in nursing then they should TOTALLY do it!!! Just do it without anesthesia! It's really not that bad! I would say talk to your OB or Pediatrician and see if they have concerns and then tell the cataract surgeon what that Dr says. Hope everything works out for you! God Bless!

  5. Anonymous2/03/2016

    Thank you for posting your young-person cataract experience. I have a chronic eye condition called Iritis (eye inflamation) that requires steroid drops. Unfortunately, the flare ups and drops have caused cataracts to form in both my eyes. During my last pregnancy my right eye cataract got really bad. I have put off surgery (it has been kind of sad only being able to see my daughter w/ one clear eye) and now that she is almost 18 months old I am ready to fix this eye. I was supposed to have my surgery last month but due to financial limitations (multifocal lenses are super expensive.......stupid insurance) I will be having my surgery in March or April. I am definitely nervous about controlling inflamation following surgery but am also a little nervous about the implant. Are you still happy with your choice of the multifocal?

    1. I am so happy you found me and my post on this! Seriously, Insurance NEEDS to do something about covering better lenses like the multifocal. I can't believe they make people pay all that money up front and out of pocket! I remember being nervous replacing my "real" lens. Really, my cataract was so bad in that eye that it was amazing to see clear again. I feel like things are calming down and Im getting used to how I see now. I don't see far away that well. When I am watching my kids play at the park I find myself closing one eye to see them across the field. But in everyday life around the house I never notice a thing.
      You know something funny that I have a lot of people telling me, which Im probably going to add to the post above. My eye will "sparkle". The new lens reflects light so every once in a while when the light hits my eye just right it will reflect back at someone. I think its kind of cool. Let me tell you, I know you will enjoy having a clear lens again! I hope it all goes well! come back and update me!

  6. I have had two retina detachments with both my pregnancies at around 24 weeks frist time not as bad as the second same eye both times and it was fixed frist time with laser then second with a band around my eye had to be put to sleep I was only 19 and 23

    1. Wow!!!! What a horrible thing to have to go through at such a young age!!! If I may ask, how is you vision now? And how many years ago was this?

  7. I had rd surgery last may during 33 weeks of pregnancy on my left eye. This thursday im gonna have rd surgery on my right baby was 2 months old now & weight about still in dilemma how to deal with this situation since i cant lift anything heavy..

  8. So glad I found others who have had to decide while pregnant. Back story: I have Aniridia (no iris', cataracts, glaucoma, and nystagmus. I had an artifial cornea (K Pro) 6.5 yrs ago removing one cataract and had a glaucoma tube shunt. Everything had been great in that eye....I had back surgery L4/L5 while pregnant with my first at 33 weeks (she is super healthy).
    I now find I need cataract surgery on my left eye (it has been there 30 years and NOW gives me issues. More cornea specialist will be the one to do it, but he will not touch it untill 3rd trimester or after birth. I will be already off work after a repeat csection so I was tempted to get it done then, but I still have many more questions for them. I am already on 1 steriod drop and 2 antibitics for the past 6.5 years which I was on last pregancy as well the whole time.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Hi! I'm so glad I found this. I'm 17 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and have a retinal hemorrhage, which could end up leading to retinal detachment. My doctor would like to wait until after baby is born, but if it becomes emergent, I'll have to have the vitrectomy! I was so nervous because he said there would be NO numbing drops for the shot itself... did you have any numbing drops? I hope they can numb at least a little, because I've had shots in my eye WITH numbing already, and it still kind of stings! Also, if there's no numbing, how's it feel having your eye held open? Yikes! I'd love to chat more. I feel like the only pregnant person in the world dealing with this, so it's incredibly encouraging to FINALLY find that I'm not!

    1. Aly, I know what you mean about feeling like the only pregnant person dealing with this and this is the EXACT reason I really wanted to blog about it!!! I seriously couldn't find anything and it scared me. I DID get numbing drops! If you talk to your OB about the stuff they want to do it will ease you. Ask you OB if they think it will be ok for them to use the numbing drops. Retina surgeons don't have a lot of experience with pregnancy so they are really nervous to use a ton of drops. I was fine and so was my baby! I PRAY your retina doesn't detach!!! That is a horrible thing to go through and a long recovery!!! Hopefully your doctors can work together to keep things as pain free as possible! Thank you so much for the comment!

  10. Chelsea2/01/2017

    I realize this blog is over a year old now but I'm so glad I found it. I had detached retinas in BOTH eyes (thanks to long term uncontrolled diabetes) and I'm only 28 years old now! Both were able to be reattached but it was too late for the left eye - it's fixed but very little vision. I also got the gas bubble in the right eye, which has developed a cataract at this point. I just found out about 2 weeks ago that I'm pregnant and I was Google searching on the surgery during pregnancy because I just don't know if I can wait 7 more months to have surgery on the only decent eye I have. So I'm glad I stumbled on this so I can talk to my ophthalmologist and OB when I see them and see if we can work something out sooner. Thank you so much for posting about your experience!

  11. I'm not a pregnant woman my name is Mark I'm 23 years old I had a bump on my eye they say I have a small cataract forming under my left eye I still see 2020 with contacts but I could so there is a blur at night and in the light they said that my not advance for several years but I don't know if I like the way this looks also I didn't slowly come on it came on very quickly so it's quite a noticeable difference for me and the surgery seem scary for me I didn't know there were younger people out there having it done I was thinking about the multifocal lens but didn't know about it we just like to hear some input


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