Yeast Infection During Pregnancy: Causes & Treatments

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Experiencing a yeast infection during pregnancy is not uncommon for many expecting mothers, but as with any infection during this delicate time of your life, it is important to understand everything about this condition.

What is a Yeast Infection?

A yeast infection, quite simply, is when the balance of yeast and acid in the vagina is imbalanced, resulting in an overgrowth of fungi called Candida albicans. Roughly 75% of women will experience a yeast infection at some point in their lives, and while these infections can be easily cleared up with proper treatment, they can still cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, such as itching, burning, vaginal discharge or pain during urination or sexual intercourse.

Having a yeast infection during pregnancy, however, causes many women to worry, particularly later in pregnancy when things like excess vaginal discharge or pain during urination may be indicative of more serious problems. That being said, yeast infections during pregnancy are actually quite common, due to the massive fluctuations of hormones, which can alter the pH balance of the vagina, making it more susceptible to these types of infections. They are particularly common during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The good news is that yeast infections are typically harmless, both for the mother and child, particularly if they are recognized and treated quickly. If a yeast infection is present at the time of labor, it is possible for the infection to be spread to the baby, but this can easily be cleared up by a common anti-fungal medication for your baby.

A pregnant Asian woman sitting on a couch suffering from yeast infection

Vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Symptoms of a Yeast Infection during Pregnancy

Due to the dynamic levels of hormones in the body during pregnancy, yeast infections are more common and can be identified by a number of somewhat obvious symptoms. The typical symptom that people recognize first is itchy, burning or uncomfortable sensations around the lips of the vagina, accompanied by an unusual amount of discharge. The discharge may also be milky or white, but can also take on other colours, such as yellowish or green. The smell of this discharge is usually yeasty, like bread. Another common symptom is a painful or burning sensation during urination and sexual intercourse.

Causes of Yeast Infection during Pregnancy

As mentioned above, the causes of a yeast infection during pregnancy is primarily the higher levels of hormones in the body, which can throw off the balance of yeast in your vagina. However, this balance can get upset by other things as well, such as taking antibiotics or certain steroidal medications. If you are sexually active, it can change the yeast balance in the vagina, resulting in an overgrowth, as well.

Treatments

The most reliable treatment for a yeast infection includes Monistat, oral medications or various creams. In most cases, these anti-fungal creams will need to be applied inside the vagina, as well as on the skin surrounding the affected area, for 5-7 days. Each medication will be different, but there are both over-the-counter and prescription options. Although you can buy creams for yeast infections without a prescription, it is best to speak to your doctor about a suspected yeast infection, particularly if you are pregnant. It could be a sign of more serious underlying problems and is worth a visit to your doctor. In most cases, a yeast infection poses no threat to your unborn child, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Prevention

If you want to prevent a yeast infection, you will have to be conscious of your clothing choice, hygiene habits, dietary intake, and cosmetic product use.

Clothing – Wear loose-fitting, cotton underwear that allows your vagina to breathe and remain dry throughout the night.

Hygiene – Regularly wash your sensitive areas and always wipe front to back when going to the bathroom.

Cosmetics – Avoid scented shampoos, soaps or moisturizers, as this could irritate the skin or upset vaginal flora balance.

Diet – Eating more yogurt can help to keep your bacterial and fungal balance in line throughout your body.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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