During pregnancy, a woman experiences various changes in her body, making her more susceptible to different infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV). Among these, yeast infections during pregnancy are prevalent, particularly in the second and third trimesters. It’s a familiar concern, with approximately 75% of women encountering a yeast infection at some point. While yeast infections can be bothersome, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, they are generally harmless. Thankfully, these infections can be effectively treated with antifungal medications. However, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial, not only for the mother’s comfort but also to prevent the transmission of the infection to the baby during labor and delivery. In this blog, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and safe treatment options for yeast infections during pregnancy. Understand how to manage this common condition to ensure a smoother journey for the expecting mother and her baby.
What is yeast infection during pregnancy?
Yeast infections occur frequently in pregnant women due to hormonal changes. Due to fluctuations in estrogen levels, the natural flora of the vagina can disrupt, which can cause the growth of harmful microbes. This imbalance creates an environment where yeast, most commonly the fungus Candida albicans, can proliferate.
In some cases, other types of yeast, such as Candida glabrata and Candida tropicalis, may also contribute to these infections. While the symptoms of yeast infections can be discomforting, it’s important to note that they do not harm the mother or baby. Fortunately, safe and effective treatment options are available, typically in topical creams.
What are the symptoms of yeast infection while pregnant?
Recognizing the symptoms of a yeast infection is key to timely treatment and relief. If you’re pregnant, look out for the following signs:
- Itching: One of the most common indicators of a yeast infection is persistent itching in the vaginal area. This discomfort may vary in intensity but is often a telltale sign of an overgrowth of yeast.
- Burning: Vaginal burning during pregnancy, especially during urination or intercourse, can accompany a yeast infection. This symptom is a result of the irritation caused by the overgrowth of yeast in the vaginal region.
- Redness or swelling in the vulva: The exterior part of the vagina, known as the vulva, may experience redness or swelling during a yeast infection. This inflammation contributes to the overall discomfort associated with the condition.
- Thick, white vaginal discharge: A distinctive characteristic of yeast infections is the presence of a thick, white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese. This discharge is a result of the increased yeast levels in the vaginal area.
If you notice these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
How common are yeast infections during pregnancy?
Yeast infections, medically termed vaginal candidiasis, are common during pregnancy, affecting up to 30% of expected mothers. The surge in estrogen levels creates an environment that is conducive to the overgrowth of yeast in the vaginal area.
Pregnancy-induced hormonal changes can lead to an imbalance in the natural flora of the vagina, making it more susceptible to yeast infections. While yeast infections are generally harmless and treatable, the accompanying symptoms, such as itching, burning, and unusual discharge, can be particularly bothersome, adding an extra layer of concern for pregnant women. Therefore, it is important, more than ever, to emphasize the importance of proactive management and preventive measures to minimize the risk of yeast infections in pregnant women.
How can I treat a yeast infection while pregnant?
If you suspect you have a yeast infection during pregnancy, it’s crucial to approach treatment with caution and under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Fortunately, safe and effective options are available for managing yeast infections in pregnant women:
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Vaginal Creams or Suppositories
It’s generally safe to treat a yeast infection with over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal creams or suppositories containing miconazole, terconazole, and clotrimazole. These antifungal agents are known for their efficacy in addressing yeast infections and are considered safe during pregnancy.
Oral and topical terbinafine are effective options to treat fungal infections during pregnancy. However, it’s important to note that oral terbinafine tablets require a prescription, while the topical versions (cream, gel, spray) are available over the counter (OTC).
What to avoid?
It’s crucial to avoid taking oral fluconazole tablets to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. While over-the-counter medications are generally safe, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any treatment. Confirming that your symptoms are indeed due to a yeast infection ensures the most appropriate course of action.
The gold standard for treating yeast infections during pregnancy involves a seven-day course of therapy using topical antifungal agents. This extended duration allows for comprehensive eradication of the yeast overgrowth, reducing the likelihood of recurrence.
However, it may take 10-14 days to recover from the infection during pregnancy completely. Using a starch-free drying powder or nystatin powder after the infection has cleared up can effectively reduce the chances of re-infection during pregnancy.
How can I prevent a yeast infection while pregnant?
Preventing yeast infections during pregnancy involves adopting a proactive approach to maintain optimal vaginal health. Consider the following tips to minimize the risk of yeast infections:
- Choose cotton underwear: Opt for breathable cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch. This helps keep the vaginal area dry and allows for proper ventilation, reducing the likelihood of yeast overgrowth.
- Wipe from front to back: Always practice good hygiene by wiping from front to back after using the bathroom. This simple habit helps prevent the transfer of bacteria from the anal area to the vagina.
- Avoid douching: Douching disrupts the natural balance in the vagina, making it more susceptible to infections. Additionally, in late pregnancy, douching may pose the risk of breaking the amniotic sac (water breaking).
- Say no to tight clothing: Avoid wearing tight pants and pantyhose, as these can create a warm and moist environment that promotes yeast growth. Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing to reduce the risk of infection.
- Avoid moisture: Whether it’s a wet swimsuit or sweaty clothing, changing out of damp clothes immediately is essential. Keeping the genital area dry helps prevent the conditions favorable for yeast overgrowth.
- Steer clear of irritants: Avoid products that may irritate the vaginal area, such as toilet paper with added scents, feminine sprays, bubble baths, and scented sanitary pads. These can disrupt the natural pH balance and increase the risk of infections.
- Manage diabetes effectively: If you have diabetes, maintaining good control of your blood sugar is crucial. Elevated blood sugar levels can contribute to an environment conducive to yeast overgrowth.
- Incorporate yogurt with live cultures: Including yogurt with live cultures in your diet may help prevent yeast infections. Some research suggests that the probiotics in yogurt contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina, which keeps the harmful microbes at bay.
Adopting these preventive measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing yeast infections during pregnancy. However, if you have concerns or experience symptoms, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
If you suspect a yeast infection during pregnancy, it’s crucial to consult your healthcare provider, especially if it’s your first experience or if symptoms arise after intercourse with a new partner. Seeking professional guidance ensures an accurate diagnosis and rules out other potential conditions that may share similar symptoms. Your doctor can provide you a personalized treatment plan, offer preventive advice, and address any concerns. Timely consultation facilitates effective management and contributes to a healthier pregnancy experience.
Other FAQs yeast infection during pregnancy
A mild vaginal yeast infection might resolve without treatment. If symptoms are mild, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter antifungal creams or suppositories for quick relief. However, if symptoms persist, consulting your doctor is advisable, as you may need stronger antifungals to combat the infection.
While every pregnancy has a baseline risk, leaving a yeast infection untreated may pose additional concerns. If untreated, there’s a chance the infection could transfer to the baby’s mouth during labor, potentially causing a condition known as “thrush.” Given the background risk in pregnancies, seeking timely treatment is recommended.
No, a yeast infection itself won’t harm the developing baby. However, untreated symptomatic yeast infections may exacerbate itching and inflammation symptoms. While asymptomatic infections are generally not treated, addressing symptoms immediately is crucial to prevent the risk of complications.
Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to managing yeast infections during pregnancy. Diagnosis typically involves a pelvic exam and may include lab tests for confirmation. Fortunately, even during pregnancy, yeast infections can be effectively treated, minimizing discomfort and potential complications.