Yeast infections are common during pregnancy. Many women develop yeast infections at the end of their second or during their third trimester. Except in the case of severe immune problems like HIV, yeast infections do not cause harm to a pregnancy.
The vagina has many different micro-organisms. Some are helpful, such as lactobacilli. Some, like yeast, can be a problem if there are more than just a few.
As your hormones change in pregnancy, this changes your vagina’s environment, which triggers an overgrowth of Candida (type of yeast normally found in small amounts in the vagina and intestinal tract).
During pregnancy, the body also produces more sugar and some is secreted into the vagina. Yeast fungus feeds off sugar, which allows the fungus to grow and spread.
Many women want to know if they can be sexually active while a yeast infection is present. While yeast infections are not often sexually transmitted, the vagina is inflamed and raw-feeling during an infection.
Intercourse can therefore, cause more trauma when there is a yeast infection. So it is best to avoid sexual contact while the yeast infection is present unless otherwise directed by a doctor.
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
- 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 is usually white.
What Causes a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy?
These conditions make yeast infections more likely:
- 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 antibiotics or steroids
- Having your period
- Diseases that lower your immunity, such as cancer or HIV
Diagnosing a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy
If you are experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection while you are pregnant, contact your doctor 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.
There are also other infections that can feel the same as a yeast infection and that may be a danger to you and the baby in pregnancy.
To diagnose you, your doctor will take a sample of your vaginal discharge to analyze in a laboratory. This is done to confirm that a yeast infection is present and determine 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.
Treating a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy
Talk to your doctor before using any treatments. He or she will probably recommend a vaginal cream and suppositories. There are over-the-counter and prescription treatments.
Depending on the severity of the infection and any other medical conditions you have, one may be more appropriate than the other. Oral medications like Diflucan have not yet been proven safe for pregnant and lactating women.
Most yeast infections take seven to ten days to clear up after treatment begins. Yeast infections during pregnancy can be harder to treat. Typical seven-day treatments regimens may not work as effectively and may need to be lengthened.
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. They can be used at any point during your pregnancy.
There are some yeast species that are now resistant to these medications, so let your doctor know if your infection is not better by the time you finish the treatment. He or she may prescribe a different treatment.
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 an anti-fungal drug that is not absorbed into the body, but is used to treat topical or oral 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
- Wear loose fitting clothes or skirts
- Wipe from front to back after bowel movements
- Avoid douching, bubble baths, sanitary pads or tampons that contain deodorant, and colored or perfumed toilet paper
- Keep genital 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 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 and can lead to problems in a pregnancy.
If you begin treatment and do not see an improvement within three 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 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?
- Can I remain sexually active? If not, how long will I need to wait?