Treating vaginitis naturally during pregnancy is a frequent concern for expecting mothers. Vaginitis is a general term for the inflammation of the vagina. Vaginitis is common but can be very annoying as it tends to be reoccurring and may interfere with sexual intercourse.
Four types of vaginitis include trichomoniasis, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and atrophic vaginitis. This article will focus on the two types most pertinent to pregnant women: yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
How to Treat Vaginitis Naturally During Pregnancy
Yeast Infections are caused by a fungus (not by a bacterium, virus, or parasite). It is estimated that 75% of women will experience a yeast infection during their lifetime.
Those who are most susceptible to these infections are pregnant women, women with diabetes, women taking antibiotics, corticosteroid medications, or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), and/or women with iron deficiencies.
While some may not experience any symptoms, the most common symptoms of yeast infections include:
- Itchiness of the vaginal area
- Abnormal discharge
- more discharge
- white or tan discharge
- can resemble cottage cheese
- has a foul odor, like bread/yeast
- Burning sensations in the vaginal area during urination and/or sex
Preventing Yeast Infections:
- The most natural way to treat yeast infections is by prevention. Medical studies suggest that wearing tight-fitting undergarments may increase humidity and moisture in vaginal areas, creating an environment more susceptible to yeast infections. Studies would suggest that taking steps to eradicate excess moisture in vaginal areas (such as loose-fitting clothing) may aid in prevention.
- So, try wearing loose & breathable (cotton) underwear.
- Other studies suggest that frequent intercourse (seven or more times a week) is linked to increased risk of yeast infections in women. This may have to do with the alkaline nature of semen which can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina.
- So, make sure you either have less frequent sex and/or ensure you practice good after-sex hygiene (clean around the vaginal opening with gentle soap, do not douche).
- Regular consumption of yogurt containing live cultures of bacteria (available in brands such as Dannon and Yoplait) have also been associated with decreased risk of yeast infections in women. This is similar to taking a probiotic supplement. Check labels for the statement “contains live [& active] cultures.”
- Eat yogurt containing live cultures.
While there is evidence to suggest that these natural treatments may aid in the prevention of yeast infections, there is no foolproof way to entirely safeguard yourself against infection.
Self-diagnosis of yeast infections is typically not recommended, as potential misdiagnosis can lead to overuse or misuse of topical creams and other over-the-counter treatment options.
If you suspect that you may have a yeast infection, it is best to contact your doctor to discuss your treatment options.
If the diagnosis of a yeast infection is confirmed by a medical professional, it is likely they will either suggest an over the counter treatment, or they may prescribe oral medication, antifungal creams, or suppositories. Read more about dealing with yeast infections during pregnancy.
Treating Bacterial Vaginosis Naturally During Pregnancy
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) (also known as nonspecific vaginitis) is caused by several different types of bacteria. Many women don’t experience any symptoms, but some may develop a white or grayish, fishy-smelling discharge. In some cases, the discharge may also appear frothy.
Unfortunately, bacterial vaginosis cannot be treated naturally. It is important to take action and contact your healthcare provider because bacterial vaginosis has been associated with preterm delivery, low-birth-weight infants, preterm/pre-labor membrane rupture, and late-term miscarriages.
Treating Bacterial Vaginosis when naturally doesn’t work
There are various treatment options available for BV including, but not limited to, oral medications, suppositories, and sulfa creams. Current 7-day oral treatments are clindamycin and metronidazole.
Vaginal treatment with suppositories and sulfa creams may provide relief of symptoms but are deemed insufficient to prevent complications during pregnancy.
If you are experiencing symptoms that lead you to believe you may have bacterial vaginosis, it is imperative to contact your healthcare provider to receive proper treatment.
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Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Bacterial Vaginosis. (2000). In W. Cohen (Ed.), Cherry and Merkatz’s Complications of Pregnancy (5th ed., p. 761). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
2. Sweet, R., & Gibbs, R. (2002). Infectious Vulvovaginitis. In Infectious Diseases of the Female Genital Tract (4th ed., pp. 337-352). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
3. Vaginitis. (1996). In D. Larson (Ed.), Mayo Clinic Family Health Book (2nd ed., pp. 1173-1174). New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.