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There are many types of fungi that live in our bodies and most of them thrive without causing any noticeable symptoms. However, sometimes, these fungi can cause infections and diseases that can be hard to control. One such disease is the yeast infection that can affect sensitive areas of the body, even during a delicate phase like pregnancy.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, commonly known as a yeast infection, is caused mostly by the organism Candida albicans, although two other pathogens – Candida glabrata and Candida tropicalis – can also be involved.
The common factors that put women at risk of this infection involve pregnancy, diabetes, broad spectrum antibiotics, birth control pills, corticosteroids and immunodeficiency disorders.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about yeast infection pregnancy that will answer your queries.
What Is Yeast Infection In Pregnancy And Is It Common?
A yeast infection during pregnancy is a common condition which is also called candidiasis. It is characterised by itchiness, soreness, and irritation in the vagina and labia and is also accompanied by a white or creamy discharge, especially during the second trimester of the pregnancy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 75% of women experience yeast infections at least once in their lifetime and it is most common during pregnancy. Some of the physiological changes to the body during pregnancy make women more susceptible to pregnancy yeast infection than at other times in their life.
Although yeast infections have no major effects on the unborn baby, they are difficult to control during pregnancy and can cause significant discomfort to women. Therefore, if you are experiencing such symptoms during pregnancy, the ideal course of action would be to learn about it so you can prepare to discuss it with your doctor.
Causes Of Yeast Infection In Pregnancy
- Elevated oestrogen levels:
Higher levels of oestrogen in the body during pregnancy stimulate the production of glycogen by your vagina. Since the yeast feed on glucose, it makes it convenient for them to grow and multiply. Studies also show that oestrogen facilitates easier adherence of the yeast to the vaginal walls which promotes their growth.
- Medication and antibiotics:
The likelihood of getting a yeast infection also increases if you’re frequently on antibiotics over a period of few months or years. The prescriptive medication taken to kill the targeted bacteria also affects the balance of the protective bacteria that live in the vagina, thus allowing the yeast to overgrow.
- High blood sugar:
Women with existing diabetic conditions or those who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher disposition to yeast infections. They are likely to have weakened immune systems which make them susceptible to yeast infections and other diseases.
- Sexual Intercourse:
Even though a yeast infection is not considered as a sexually transmitted disease, sexual activity can trigger yeast infections. In cases where the sexual partner has the infection, it can be transmitted to you during intercourse.
- Birth Control Pills:
There is a chance that being on birth control pills before conception can affect your hormonal levels during pregnancy. Changes in hormonal levels influence vaginal secretions, causing an imbalance in the pH levels that might facilitate the growth of yeast.
This is the process of intra-vaginal cleansing using a liquid solution – an activity that is done by many women. Although done for personal hygiene, studies show that douching can increase the chances of vaginal infections, candidiasis being one of these. Doctors highly recommend against douching during pregnancy as it removes the normal vaginal flora and this facilitates the overgrowth of pathogens.
Symptoms Of Yeast During Pregnancy
When you develop a yeast infection, the symptoms are normally bothersome until they are treated. The symptoms include:
- Itchiness, soreness, irritation, reddening and a burning sensation in the vagina and labia which can also be accompanied by swelling depending on the severity
- Leukorrhea, which is an odourless vaginal discharge that has a white, creamy or cottage cheese like appearance
- Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- Bad odour that is similar to the smell of yeast from beer or bread
How To Diagnose Yeast Infection?
Since many of the physical symptoms involving yeast infection are common with sexually transmitted diseases such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Trichomoniasis, it is important to get it checked by your doctor. At the doctor’s clinic, a simple vaginal swab is done to get a sample of the vaginal discharge or secretion, which is analysed under a microscope.
Based on this test and a simple physical examination, the doctor can detect an infection. In very few cases where diagnosis is difficult, the swab may be sent to a lab for culture analysis and positive confirmation of the causative organism.
How To Treat Yeast Infection While Pregnant?
If you want to know how to get rid of a yeast infection while pregnant, the first option is to take medicines prescribed by a doctor. The other is using home remedies which can be employed at the start of the infection if it is detected early. It is not advisable to use over-the-counter and antifungal creams without the prescription of a doctor, and oral medications are also not recommended.
Treatments Of Yeast Infection:
Based on the degree of the infection, your doctor will prescribe antifungal medication that is applied topically. Since oral medications have been linked to increased risk of contracting congenital disorders such as autism in your baby, they are not prescribed. Even when they are prescribed in rare cases, it is only after the second or third trimester or after childbirth and while breastfeeding.
The treatment of yeast overgrowth is a three step process that involves:
- Bringing the overgrowth under control or killing the fungus
- Taking probiotics to restore the balance of good bacteria that prevent yeast infections
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet
The course of action involves the applications of vaginal creams such as Clotrimazole and Miconazole until the symptoms begin to diminish. The treatments don’t last more than two weeks and should be completed to make sure the infection does not come back.
Home/ Natural Remedies for Yeast Infection
When you begin to notice signs of a yeast infection you can use some of these effective home remedies to treat yeast during pregnancy.
- Yoghurt: Since the natural vaginal flora during a yeast infection is disturbed, yoghurt can be used to restore the balance and control the yeast overgrowth. Rich in an essential bacterium called Lactobacillus acidophilus, unflavoured yoghurt can be applied vaginally once or twice a day until the symptoms disappear.
- Garlic Cloves: The anti-fungal properties of garlic are effective in treating yeast infections. Place a freshly peeled garlic clove in the vagina before going to bed. Garlic gel supplements can also be used topically to get relief from yeast infections.
- Apple Cider vinegar: It can offer quick relief due to its anti-fungal properties. Dab the affected region with the vinegar and leave it for some time until it dries and rinse the area with water. It can also be mixed in bath water as a form of treatment.
- Oregano oil: Oregano oil is an effective treatment for fungal infections as it contains phenols and flavonoids that kill fungus and pathogens. It is also loaded with vitamins and nutrients which strengthen the immune system to fight off infections.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil can be used as a simple and effective treatment for fungal infections. It can also be mixed with cinnamon oil and applied over the affected area thrice a day to reduce the pain or discomfort. Coconut oil is one of the best products to use to treat fungal infections as fungi cannot thrive in such a thick environment.
- Cranberry Juice: Along with other topical remedies for the infection, drinking cranberry juice can be highly beneficial in treating yeast. It is known for its safe ability to treat urinary tract infections and improve the pH balance of the vagina.
It is common to have a yeast infection while pregnant. Natural remedies can be effective in the early stages of an infection; however, if the symptoms persist for a week or two, medical treatment should be sought immediately.
Preventive Measures To Avoid Yeast Infection While Pregnant
Although there are factors such as hormonal imbalance and vaginal secretions that are not under your control, there are some preventive steps you can take to minimise your chances of developing an infection. Here are some tips to prevent yeast infections:
- Keep the genital area dry by wearing loose cotton undergarments which facilitate air circulation
- Avoid heavily scented soaps, bubble baths and sprays near the genital area as they might irritate the affected region and aggravate the condition
- Make sure to shower immediately and dry yourself thoroughly after activities such as swimming and work outs. Do not sit in damp or wet bathing garments for long periods of time
- While wiping the genital area, always wipe from front to back. Wiping back to front increases the chances of infections
- Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains while avoiding high sugar and fatty foods
- Avoid wearing underwear or pyjama bottoms during bed time
- Refrain from douching
Complications Of Yeast Infection
An untreated yeast infection during pregnancy can cause a lot of discomfort even though it isn’t dangerous. In some cases, much more serious complications from other infections or STD’s can be misread as yeast infection and thus go unnoticed. This can cause serious problems for you and your baby.
Two of the most frequently asked questions for pregnant women going through this infection include:
Is It Harmful For My Baby?
Yeast infection does not affect the growing baby. However, if you have yeast infection at the time of labour, the baby might contract it as it passes through the birth canal. It leads to an infant yeast infection of the mouth called thrush. It is characterised by white patches on the mouth, roof of the mouth, side and the tongue. Though not severe, the infection can come back while breastfeeding. It can be easily treated with antifungal medication for the baby and an ointment for the mother.
Will My Partner Get Infected With It During Sex?
The chances are rare but the infection can be passed between the sexual partners. If the male partner develops symptoms such as redness, itching, rashes or burning, it is a good idea to abstain from sex during treatment.
Although it does not pose a serious health risk, a yeast infection is a common irritant during pregnancy. Adopt simple preventive and remedial practices to ensure you reduce the chances of contracting this, and do make sure you see a doctor if you do.