Yeast Infection During Pregnancy

Yeast Infection During Pregnancy

Yeast infections are very common during pregnancy. In fact, they are more common among expectant mothers than any other point in a woman’s life. Many women develop yeast infections at the end of their second or during their third trimester. In most cases, yeast infections do not cause harm to the mother or the baby.

As your hormones increase, internal and external factors change your vagina’s environment, which triggers an overgrowth of Candida albicans (type of fungus normally found in small amounts in the vagina and intestinal tract) and creates an imbalance. For example, during pregnancy, the body produces sugar and secretes it through the vagina more frequently. Yeast fungus feeds off sugar and allows the fungus to grow and spread.

Many women want to know if they can be sexual active while a yeast infection is present. While yeast infections are not often sexually transmitted, the possibility of sexual transmission depends on the cause of the yeast infection. It is always best to avoid sexual contact while the yeast infection is present unless otherwise stated by a doctor or midwife.

Symptoms of a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy

Typically, yeast infections do not cause harm to the baby. However, they can make life difficult for the mother, and they are more difficult to control during pregnancy. Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Burning sensation when urinating or having sexual intercourse
  • Itching
  • Redness or irritation of the vagina lips
  • Large amounts of discharge
  • Discharge may appear like cottage cheese, may smell like yeast or bread or it may be odorless, and it may be white (most common), greenish or yellowish in color

What Causes a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy?

Yeast infections are usually caused by one of the following:

  • Change in hormones due to pregnancy or before a menstruation cycle
  • Taking hormones or birth control pills
  • High blood sugar, such as with diabetes
  • Taking steroids or antibiotics
  • Douching
  • Blood or semen
  • Vaginal intercourse

Diagnosing a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy

If you are experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection while you are pregnant, contact your doctor or midwife immediately. Although yeast infections are not known to cause negative effects on a pregnancy, they are more difficult to control and symptoms may be extremely difficult to deal with, especially during your third trimester. To diagnose you, your doctor will take a sample of your vaginal discharge to analyze in a laboratory. This is done to confirm which type of yeast infection is present and the severity of the infection. Diagnostic testing is also used to determine that you do not have a bacterial infection in the vagina called a Bacterial Vaginosis or you do not have an STD such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea or Trichomoniasis. If you have Trichomoniasis your partner will need to be tested too.

Treating a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy

Most yeast infections take 10-14 days to clear up after treatment begins. Yeast infections during pregnancy are not as easily treated. Typical 7-day treatments may not work as effectively. Your doctor or midwife may recommend a vaginal cream and suppositories only. These can usually be found over-the-counter. Oral medications like Diflucan have not yet been proven safe for pregnant and lactating women. Monistat (Miconazole) and Gyne-Lotrimin (Clotrimazole) are not known to harm a fetus, increase risk for birth defects or cause any other type of complication. Also, they can be used at any point during your pregnancy. Many doctors recommend Monistat or a similar product.

If you decide not to seek treatment for your yeast infection, you are increasing the risk of passing the infection on to your baby, via their mouth, during delivery. This is known as ‘thrush’ and can be treated with Nystatin. Nystatin is a starch-free drying powder and also used to prevent recurrent yeast infections.

Preventing Yeast Infections during Pregnancy

Here are some tips to help you prevent yeast infections from developing while you are pregnant:

  • Use fragrance-free soap to wash your vagina area
  • Do not use deodorant sprays
  • Wear cotton panties or panties with cotton in the vaginal area
  • Wipe from front to back after bowel movements
  • Avoid douching, bubble baths, sanitary pads or tampons that contain deodorant, colored or perfumed toilet paper
  • Keep genitals area dry and clean
  • Avoid spending too much time sitting in a wet bathing suit
  • Talk with your doctor about additional prevention measures you can take
  • Limit your sugar intake
  • When your body is rested, it has an easier time fighting infections, so get plenty of rest during your pregnancy.
  • Increase the lactobacillus acidophilus intake in your diet. This ingredient is commonly found in yogurt

Do not wait to contact your doctor or midwife if you have symptoms of a yeast infection. These symptoms are similar to other types of infections and conditions that may not be as easily treated. If you begin treatment and do not see an improvement within 3 days, contact your doctor again to reschedule an appointment.

Talking to Your Health Care Provider

When you visit your doctor or midwife about a yeast infection, do not be afraid to ask important questions. Here are some suggestive questions you may find helpful:

  • After treatment begins, which symptoms should I watch for that may indicate treatment is not working?
  • Based on my condition, do you recommend prescription strength or over-the-counter medication?
  • Since I’m pregnant, do I need to change the dosage of the medication?
  • What are all of my treatment options?
  • What is the cause of my yeast infection?
  • Which temperature should the water be in my bath/shower?
  • Can I remain sexually active? If not, how long will I need to wait?
[Page updated February 2015]