Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Yeast infections during pregnancy are more common than any other time in a woman’s life, especially during the second trimester of pregnancy. You may be noticing an increase in the amount of thin, white, odd smelling discharge. This is common and a normal symptom in the second trimester.
If you think you may be experiencing a yeast infection, the following information will prepare you to discuss the possibility with your doctor. Though yeast infections have no major negative effect on pregnancy, they are often more difficult to control during pregnancy, causing significant discomfort for you. Don’t wait to seek treatment!
What is a yeast infection?
Yeast infection occurs when the normal levels of acid and yeast in the vagina are out of balance, which allows the yeast to overgrow causing an uncomfortable, but not serious, a condition called a yeast infection.
If you have never been diagnosed or treated by a physician for a yeast infection and have some of the symptoms, you should see your physician first for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Other infections have similar symptoms, so you want to make sure that you are treating the infection correctly. There are also treatments that are not appropriate during pregnancy.
What causes yeast infections during pregnancy?
A yeast infection can be caused by one or more of the following:
- Hormonal changes that come with pregnancy or before your period
- Taking hormones or birth control pills
- Taking antibiotics or steroids
- High blood sugar, as in diabetes
- Vaginal intercourse
- Blood or semen
Why are yeast infections more common during pregnancy?
Your body is going through so many changes right now, and it is difficult for your body to keep up with the chemical changes in the vagina. There is more sugar in vaginal secretions on which the yeast can feed, causing an imbalance which results in too much yeast.
What are the symptoms of yeast infections?
The symptoms of a yeast infection may include one or more of the following:
- Discharge that is usually white/tan in color, similar to cottage cheese and may smell like yeast/bread
- Other discharge may be greenish or yellowish, also similar to cottage cheese and may smell like yeast/bread
- An increase in discharge
- Redness, itching, or irritation of the lips of the vagina
- Burning sensation during urination or intercourse
What else could I be experiencing?
If you are experiencing symptoms similar to a yeast infection, but a physician has ruled this diagnosis out, you may have one of the following:
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, & Trichomoniasis
- A vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis
How do I know for sure if I have a yeast infection?
At your doctor’s office or medical clinic, a clinician will use a simple, painless swab to remove the discharge or vaginal secretions and examine it through a microscope. Usually, upon a simple examination of the vagina, a physician can diagnose a yeast infection. In rare cases, the culture may be sent to a lab.
How are yeast infections treated during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, physicians recommend vaginal creams and suppositories only. The oral medication, Diflucan (a single-dose medication), has not been proven safe during pregnancy and lactation. Not all vaginal creams and suppositories are okay to use during pregnancy, so it is best to consult your doctor or pharmacist to get the right one. If left untreated, yeast infections can pass to your baby’s mouth during delivery. This is called “thrush” and is effectively treated with Nystatin.
It may take 10-14 days to find relief or completely clear up the infection while you are pregnant. After the infection has cleared up and any sores have healed, it may be helpful to use a starch-free drying powder, or Nystatin powder to prevent a recurring infection.
How can I prevent a yeast infection or recurring yeast infections?
Most yeast infections can usually be avoided by doing the following:
- Wear loose, breathable cotton clothing and cotton underwear.
- After regular, thorough washing (using unscented, hypoallergenic or gentle soap), use your blow dryer on a low, cool setting to help dry the outside of your genital area.
- Always wipe from front to back after using the restroom.
- Shower immediately after you swim. Change out of your swimsuit, workout clothes, or other damp clothes as soon as possible.
- Do NOT:
- use feminine hygiene sprays
- use sanitary pads and tampons that contain deodorant
- take a bubble bath/use scented soaps
- use colored or perfumed toilet paper
- Include yogurt with “lactobacillus acidophilus” in your diet.
- Limit sugar intake, as sugar promotes the growth of yeast.
- Get plenty of rest to make it easier for your body to fight infections.
When should I contact my doctor?
If you are experiencing the symptoms described in this article, call your doctor now. Yeast infections have similar symptoms of other infections, such as STDs. Proper diagnosis every time you experience these symptoms is vital for the most effective, immediate treatment, or your condition may worsen/not go away.
If you see no improvement within three days, or if symptoms worsen or come back after treatment, you should contact your healthcare provider again.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. American Academy of Family Physicians
1. Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Babys First Year. Johnson, Robert V., M.D., et al, Ch. 11.