What is a vaginal yeast infection?
Vaginal yeast infections are fungal infections that cause irritation and vaginal discharge. You can treat a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant with vaginal creams or suppositories, non-prescription medications, or medications that have been proven safe and effective in pregnant women.
Vaginal yeast infections are fairly common, even among pregnant women. In fact, while you’re pregnant, you may be more likely to get certain kinds of infections, like urinary tract infections and bacterial vaginosis, especially during your second and third trimesters.
Vaginal yeast infections are fungal infections that cause irritation and vaginal discharge. Normally, your vagina maintains balanced levels of acidity and yeast inside it. This is your body’s way of protecting itself from dangerous bacteria.
When you get a yeast infection, the acid and yeast levels are out of balance, and the yeast grows too quickly. This increased presence of yeast causes discomfort and other symptoms.
Yeast infections are not sexually transmitted, but many women get them soon after they start having sex. Yeast infections affect up to 75% of women at some point during their lives.
This condition isn’t necessarily dangerous and doesn’t present long-term complications, but you shouldn’t delay treatment, especially if you are pregnant. If you go into labor with an active yeast infection, you could transfer it to your baby during delivery.
Vaginal yeast infections are especially common in pregnant women due to the new, changing hormones in their bodies. When you’re pregnant, your body releases more estrogen than normal, which is a big factor in upsetting the chemical balance in your vagina. Additionally, pregnant women have more sugar than normal in their vaginal discharge. Sugar encourages yeast growth.
Other elements that make it easier for women to get yeast infections include:
- Taking medication for hormone imbalances
- Taking steroids
- Taking antibiotics
- Having diabetes or high blood sugar
- Having vaginal intercourse
- Putting the vagina in contact with semen or blood
- Having a suppressed immune system
Complicated yeast infections are most common in pregnant women. They’re titled “complicated” because while pregnant, you’re more likely to get more than one yeast infection, experience chronic symptoms, and have difficulty treating the symptoms. This is normal and isn’t a reason to worry, though: You will simply need to stay in close contact with your healthcare provider.
Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant
If you think you have a vaginal yeast infection while you’re pregnant, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- White or tan discharge that looks like cottage cheese and smells like bread or yeast
- Discharge that is green or yellow
- More discharge than usual
- Irritation on your vagina
- A burning feeling when you urinate or have sexual intercourse
Diagnosing a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant
If you think you might have this condition, visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible for help diagnosing a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant. If you catch the infection early on, you might be able to save yourself from uncomfortable or ongoing symptoms.
When you visit your healthcare provider, they may want to perform a pelvic exam. This includes using a small tool to take a sample of your vaginal secretion or discharge, which is painless. A healthcare professional will inspect the sample under a microscope to determine if you have a yeast infection.
Treating a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant
You can treat a vaginal yeast infection with medication without putting your baby in harm’s way! Your healthcare provider may prescribe any of the following to treat your condition:
- Vaginal creams or suppositories
- Non-prescription medications like clotrimazole, terconazole, or miconazole.
- Anything that has been tested and proven to be safe for pregnant women.
How long does it take to get rid of a yeast infection while pregnant? It could take a few weeks for your yeast infection to go away completely, but many of the symptoms will go away after a few days.
Once you have the yeast infection under control, you might want to use a drying powder that is starch-free to help avoid future infections.
Can a vaginal yeast infection hurt my baby?
It’s rare that a yeast infection will cause complications for your unborn child. The more common varieties of yeast infection don’t spread to other areas of your body and are straightforward to treat.
However, if you leave your infection untreated it’s possible that you pass it on to your baby during delivery. Thrush happens when your untreated yeast infection is passed on to your baby’s mouth during delivery. It can be treated with antifungal medicine, but you should do your best to avoid this situation.
In rare cases, a yeast infection during pregnancy becomes aggressive and makes its way through the blood or vagina. This can cause complications like prematurity, endometriosis, neonatal sepsis, or chorioamnionitis.
Preventing a vaginal yeast infection while pregnant
If you are worried about or are prone to getting yeast infections while you’re pregnant, there are some steps you can take to avoid them. Try avoiding unnecessary yeast infections by:
- Wearing breathable, cotton underwear
- Using your blow dryer on a cool, low setting to dry your vagina after bathing or showering
- Wiping from the front to the back after you go to the bathroom
- Removing damp clothes immediately after exercising or swimming
- Eating yogurt that includes lactobacillus acidophilus
- Decreasing the amount of sugar you eat
- Avoiding tights or stockings as much as possible
- Changing sanitary pads often and choosing pads that are unscented
- Avoiding soaps, bath salts, perfumes, and other substances that may irritate your vagina.
- Using only water and a gentle soap to wash your vagina
- Choosing loose-fitting clothes that will allow air to discourage a moist, warm environment in your genital area
Caring for yourself and your baby
Vaginal yeast infections during your pregnancy should be addressed, but they don’t present a serious danger. Visit your healthcare provider as soon as you suspect a yeast infection and stay on top of prescribed medications to ensure the condition is gone by the time you deliver your baby.
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Medically Reviewed on 4/26/2022
American Pregnancy Association: “Yeast Infections During Pregnancy.”
Birth Injury Help Center: “Yeast Infections During Pregnancy | Complications of Untreated Infection.”
MyHealthAlberta: “Vaginal Yeast Infection During Pregnancy.”
Pregnancy Birth & Baby: “Vaginal thrush during pregnancy.”