Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also comes with many changes in a woman’s body that can lead to various health issues. One common problem that pregnant women face is yeast infections. Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida which is normally found in small amounts in the vagina. An estimated 75% of women will get at least one yeast infection during their lifetime, and infections are more common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. While yeast infections are not serious, they can be extremely uncomfortable. This article provides a complete overview of yeast infections during pregnancy including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention tips.
What Causes Yeast Infections During Pregnancy?
There are several reasons why pregnant women are more prone to yeast infections:
When a woman is pregnant, her body produces more estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause increased glycogen (sugar) production which yeasts feed on. The higher levels of sugar allow the yeast to grow and replicate more, potentially leading to overgrowth and infection.
Increased Blood Circulation
More blood circulates during pregnancy, especially in the pelvic area. This brings more nutrients to the vagina area, again helping yeast grow.
Immune System Changes
Pregnancy suppresses the immune system so that the body does not reject the fetus as a foreign object. This unfortunately also makes it harder for the body to keep the yeast population under control.
The normal acidic nature of the vagina keeps yeast growth in check. During pregnancy, the pH becomes less acidic which creates an environment more suitable for yeast overgrowth.
Symptoms of Yeast Infections During Pregnancy
Common symptoms of a yeast infection during pregnancy include:
- Vaginal itching, burning, and irritation
- Swelling and redness of the vulva
- Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
- Thick white cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge
- Rash or redness in the vaginal area
The symptoms are similar to those of a yeast infection when a woman is not pregnant. However, pregnant women may experience more severe itching and swelling due to the increased blood flow to the vaginal area. The symptoms may also be more persistent.
While yeast infections will not harm the baby, leaving them untreated can be quite uncomfortable for the mother. It is important to see a doctor and get proper treatment.
Diagnosing a Yeast Infection During Pregnancy
If you suspect you have a yeast infection based on the symptoms, see your doctor for a diagnosis confirmation. They will perform an examination and take a sample of the vaginal discharge.
The sample will be viewed under a microscope to check for an overgrowth of Candida yeast. The doctor may also do a culture test by growing some of the discharge in a special medium to identify the specific type of yeast causing the infection.
It is important to get an official diagnosis from your doctor and not try to self-diagnose. The symptoms of vaginal infections can overlap, and you want to make sure you are treating the right condition. Some other infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV) require different medication than yeast infections.
Yeast Infection Medication Safety During Pregnancy
There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications used to treat yeast infections. However, you should check with your doctor first before using any yeast infection products when pregnant. Here are some things to consider regarding medication safety:
Over-the-counter antifungal creams containing clotrimazole or miconazole are considered safe during pregnancy. They can be used for treating mild to moderate infections.
The oral tablet fluconazole (Diflucan) is commonly used for treating yeast infections. Low single doses (less than 200 mg) appear safe, but high doses or prolonged use may increase the risk of birth defects. Oral medication is not usually recommended as a first treatment during pregnancy unless infections are severe.
Prescription Creams and Suppositories
Prescription antifungal vaginal creams, ointments, or suppositories containing clotrimazole, miconazole, or tioconazole can also be considered for treating yeast infections under the guidance of your doctor.
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments
Many pregnant women wish to take a more natural approach to treating yeast infections. Certain dietary changes, probiotics, tea tree oil, coconut oil, and other natural remedies may help, but more research is needed on their efficacy and safety. It is best to discuss trying any home remedies with your doctor first during pregnancy.
Your doctor will advise you on the safest medications and dosage for your specific case based on factors like trimester and severity of infection. Do not self-medicate without consulting your doctor.
How to Treat Yeast Infections During Pregnancy
Treatment will depend on how advanced the infection is and any risks associated with medications based on your pregnancy stage. Here are general guidelines for treating yeast infections during pregnancy:
For mild yeast infections early in pregnancy, your doctor may recommend:
- Trying an over-the-counter antifungal cream for 3-7 days
- Using a natural remedy like yogurt with active cultures applied topically
- Increasing probiotic intake to restore healthy vaginal bacteria
If symptoms persist, a higher dose of cream or oral medication may be prescribed.
For moderate to severe yeast infections in any trimester, your doctor may prescribe:
- A prescription-strength vaginal cream or suppository
- An oral tablet of fluconazole if before 24 weeks of pregnancy
- Multiple doses of a topical treatment for up to 14 days
The oral tablet provides the fastest relief but may not be advised in your situation. Your doctor will recommend a treatment regimen tailored for you.
If the yeast infection comes back, or you get more than 3-4 infections in a year, your doctor may recommend:
- An extended prescription cream regimen of up to 30 days
- Two doses of an oral tablet like fluconazole 3 days apart (if not late pregnancy)
- Maintenance medication once a week for 6 months
- Probiotic supplements to rebalance vaginal bacteria after antibiotics
This approach aims to prevent repeat infections while pregnant. Always consult your OB-GYN first.
Can I Treat a Yeast Infection at Home During Pregnancy?
Many home remedies and natural treatments exist for yeast infections, but they have limited research on effectiveness and safety during pregnancy. Some options you can try after consulting your doctor include:
- Probiotics– take an oral supplement or use yogurt with active cultures applied to the vagina. Probiotics may suppress yeast overgrowth.
- Tea Tree Oil– Dilute tea tree essential oil and apply it topically. It has antifungal properties but can cause skin irritation in some women.
- Boric Acid– These vaginal suppositories can control yeast growth by maintaining an acidic pH. But safety has not been established during pregnancy so get your doctor’s approval first.
- Coconut Oil– Apply virgin coconut oil to external vaginal areas to provide soothing relief from itching and burning. It also has mild antifungal properties.
- Hydrogen Peroxide– Dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide with water and wash the vaginal area 1-2 times per day. It creates an unfavorable environment for yeast.
- Cranberry Juice– Drink unsweetened cranberry juice which contains substances that inhibit yeast adhesion and growth.
Discuss trying these or any other natural home treatments with your OB-GYN before using while pregnant.
How Long Do Yeast Infections Last When Pregnant?
With proper treatment, yeast infection symptoms should start improving within a few days. However, it can take 1-2 weeks for the infection to clear up completely in pregnant women and even longer if it is a severe case.
Here is a general timeline for symptom relief and complete resolution:
- 2-3 days – Start of symptom relief
- 5-7 days – Decrease in discharge, itching, and redness
- 7-14 days – Most symptoms are gone but mild irritation may persist
- 14-21 days – Full clearance of infection
It is essential to finish any prescribed medication regimen, even if you start feeling better. Stopping treatment early can lead to recurrence of the yeast infection while pregnant. Let your doctor know if symptoms do not improve within a week of starting treatment.
Can I Prevent Yeast Infections During Pregnancy?
It is difficult to fully prevent yeast infections during pregnancy given the hormonal and body changes involved. However, you can lower your risk by:
- Wearing cotton underwear and loose clothing
- Avoiding unnecessary antibiotics
- Not using douches, perfumed soaps, or shower gels in your vaginal area
- Keeping your genital area dry after baths and swimming
- Getting prompt treatment for any signs of yeast infection
- Taking probiotic supplements to maintain healthy vaginal bacteria
- Eating plain yogurt with active cultures and avoiding excessive sweets/carbs
- Not sitting in wet bathing suits or exercise clothes after workouts
- Using condoms to reduce excess moisture if having sex during infection
While you cannot always prevent a yeast infection when pregnant, these tips can help avoid contributing factors. See your doctor promptly at the first sign of symptoms for early treatment.
Can a Male Partner Get a Yeast Infection from a Pregnant Woman?
It is possible but uncommon for a pregnant woman’s yeast infection to spread to a male sex partner. This would cause an infection called balanitis, resulting in redness, itching, and irritation of the penis.
To reduce transmission risk, couples should:
- Avoid sexual contact until the yeast infection clears up
- Use condoms if having sex before treatment is complete
- Have the man apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream to the penis if symptoms develop
- Consider circumcision which lowers the risk of balanitis
- Practice good hygiene by washing genitals before and after sex
If a male partner develops persistent penile irritation or discomfort, he should see a doctor for evaluation and treatment. Yeast infections are easily treated with medication when caught early.
When to Call the Doctor about a Yeast Infection
You should call your OB-GYN if:
- Yeast infection symptoms do not improve within a week of starting treatment
- The symptoms suddenly worsen or change after initial improvement
- You experience fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting along with vaginal symptoms
- Your symptoms recur frequently during pregnancy
- You have concerns about the safety of any medication for your yeast infection
Severe or persistent yeast infections may require a stronger medication approach. Other conditions like bacterial vaginosis can mimic yeast infections as well. Let your doctor know right away if your symptoms are not resolving as expected.
Prompt medical attention ensures you get the appropriate care and relief from your yeast infection during the pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Yeast Infections During Pregnancy
Can yeast infections harm my baby during pregnancy?
In most cases, yeast infections are unlikely to cause any harm to the baby. The Candida fungus cannot pass through the amniotic sac to infect the fetus. However, severe and chronic yeast infections that go untreated have been associated with a higher risk of preterm labor and delivery.
How can I ease yeast infection itching and burning at home?
To help provide home relief before you can see your doctor, try cool compresses, OTC hydrocortisone cream, aloe vera gel, baking soda baths, loose clothing, and avoid irritants. Ice packs and chilled yogurt may also temporarily ease external vaginal itching and discomfort.
Should I treat a yeast infection if I’m pregnant and symptom-free?
It is not generally recommended to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy if you have no symptoms. Even if you tested positive, the body may be able to control the overgrowth on its own. Taking medication when not necessary could come with unnecessary risks.
Can my yeast infection spread during pregnancy if left untreated?
It is possible for the infection to gradually spread from the vagina to the labia, peri-anal area, inner thighs, and other surrounding skin. Pregnant women are more susceptible to this yeast overgrowth spreading due to increased moisture, discharge, and irritation from the original vaginal infection site.
Are home yogurt treatments safe and effective for yeast infections in pregnancy?
Applying plain, unsweetened yogurt with active cultures directly to the vagina area may offer some relief and control yeast overgrowth. This approach appears safe in pregnancy but has less scientific evidence than traditional medications. Consult your OB-GYN before trying any home remedies while pregnant.
Is it safe to have oral sex when I have a yeast infection during pregnancy?
Oral sex is not advised when you have a vaginal yeast infection. The excess Candida fungus could potentially spread to your partner’s mouth and throat area and cause an oral thrush infection. Wait until your yeast infection has fully cleared before engaging in oral sex to be safe.
How soon after treatment can I have sex again when pregnant?
You should wait to have sex until your yeast infection has resolved and all symptoms have been gone for at least 24 hours. Having sex too soon could slow down your recovery, spread the infection to your partner, or lead to recurrence. Using condoms for 7 days after treatment can also help prevent reinfection.
What if my yeast infection keeps coming back during pregnancy?
See your doctor if you experience more than 3 yeast infections in a year or get 2 infections in 6 months. You may need an extended course of prescription antifungal treatment for up to 30 days along with antifungal maintenance medication. Probiotic supplements can also help prevent recurrent yeast infections by promoting healthy vaginal bacteria.
Yeast infections are a common annoyance during pregnancy thanks to hormonal changes, pH shifts, and other factors. The overgrowth of yeast in the vagina leads to bothersome symptoms like itching, burning, pain, and abnormal discharge.
While yeast infections will not harm your baby, it is important to see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Certain oral medications and higher-dose creams may not be advised during certain stages of pregnancy.
To manage yeast infections at home, you can try natural remedies like probiotics, coconut oil, and tea tree oil after discussing safety with your OB-GYN first. Maintaining good vaginal hygiene and avoiding excess moisture can help prevent recurrences.
Most yeast infections can be cleared up within 1-2 weeks if adequately treated during pregnancy. Prompt medical attention ensures you get the relief you need while pregnant and prevents complications. With the right care, you can handle yeast infections properly and stay comfortable until delivery.
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with a helpful, comprehensive overview of yeast infections during pregnancy! Let your doctor know if you have any other questions or concerns.
Mustafa Al Mahmud is a passionate medical writer and health enthusiast. He is excited to share his knowledge and make reliable health information more accessible through Quick Medico. Mustafa aims to write about common diseases, medications, wellness topics, and the latest health research in easy-to-understand language. He believes clear and accurate health communication empowers readers to take charge of their well-being. In his free time, Mustafa enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with his family.