By Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
JUN. 30, 2022
Layla Houshmand was eight weeks pregnant in the spring of 2021 when she woke up to find her field of vision smeared with a hazy sheen, like Vaseline rubbed on the lens of a camera. She was already worried about her own health. She’d spent the day before nursing herself through the pain of a migraine. But now the headache was worse and her vision was blurring and Houshmand was even more scared. Then the vomiting began. Nothing would stay down. During one 90-minute appointment with an ophthalmologist, she remembered vomiting 20 times.
Something was clearly going horribly wrong with Houshmand’s body. Her ophthalmologist suspected a stroke in her optic nerve and told her the condition can be caused by pregnancy, but Houshmand was stuck in a Catch-22: The pregnancy was now also preventing treatment. Doctors told her that she needed steroids and blood thinners and a specific type of MRI that could make sure there wasn’t something even more serious happening. But she couldn’t get any of those things because they could endanger her fetus.