What should you know about getting a yeast infection during your pregnancy? Learning about the causes and symptoms can help you treat it sooner.
What Is a Pregnancy-Related Yeast Infection?
A yeast infection is a common occurrence for women of any age or in any physical condition. It’s simply an infection that develops as a result of too much estrogen in the body. The increase in estrogen adversely affects the balance between yeast and bacteria in the vagina. This condition is more common in pregnant women because the placenta also produces estrogen, and that can lead to an unhealthy buildup of the hormone. The interaction between estrogen, yeast and bacteria leads to an infection.
There are three types of yeast infections that can develop during pregnancy; each one results from a different type of fungus or yeast. While Candida albicans is the most common type of yeast, vaginal infections can also be caused by Candida glabrata and Candida tropicalis. This type of infection is common among women, affecting nearly 20 percent of all females, and that rate rises to 30 percent for pregnant women. While this type of infection isn’t harmful to the mother or fetus when treated early, it can be an unpleasant experience. If you observe the symptoms, you should consult your doctor about the best treatment for your situation.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms?
Simply being pregnant is enough to increase the production of estrogen in a woman’s body, but there are other factors that can raise your risk of an infection. A common contributing factor is Type 2 diabetes that isn’t kept under control through lifestyle changes or medication. This is because yeast needs sugar to grow. As you experience a high blood glucose level, the yeast in your vagina will have more sustenance upon which to thrive.
Certain medications, such as antibiotics and corticosteroids, can also raise your risk of a vaginal infection. These medications inhibit the functioning of the immune system. Without better immunity, your vagina will experience a rise in harmful bacteria. More bacteria combined with a spike in estrogen production will provide the essential building blocks for a yeast infection. Similarly, being HIV positive or suffering from other autoimmune diseases can also raise your risks for a yeast infection.
Symptoms of a Pregnancy-Related Yeast Infection
- Itchy sensation in the vagina
- Thick, white discharge from the vagina
- Unpleasant odor, resembling bread or beer
- Burning sensation or general pain around the vagina
- Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
How Can an Infection During Pregnancy Be Treated?
The best way to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy is to take action to prevent it. While you can’t control the amount of estrogen the placenta creates, there are other preventive actions you can take. For example, wearing cotton undergarments will allow air to pass through the material and allow your vagina to breathe. Avoid using a douche during pregnancy since this can create a pH imbalance in your vagina. You should also keep the area around your vagina clean and dry. Avoid using perfumed personal hygiene products. You should also keep a closer eye on your blood sugar levels by reducing your intake of sugar and carbohydrates.
Methods of Treating a Yeast Infection During Pregnancy
Before you treat yourself for a yeast infection, you should consult your doctor. You may have another type of infection that shares some of the same symptoms. Talking to your doctor first will help you administer the correct treatment for your condition. If it is a yeast infection, the following treatments can help:
- Anti-fungal cream or suppository—avoid oral antifungal medication since this can complicate a pregnancy.
- Yogurt—probiotics may help fight the infection.
- Topical corticosteroids—these products are best for eliminating or reducing the symptoms of the infection.
- Coconut oil—research has found that coconut oil contains strong anti-fungal properties, making it an effective, natural treatment for yeast infections. It can be rubbed into the affected area for best results.
- Apple cider vinegar—add half of a cup of apple cider vinegar to a bath and soak for 30 minutes. The acidic nature of the vinegar will disrupt the interaction between the yeast and bacteria in your vagina.
If you are concerned about developing a vaginal infection, you should talk to your doctor. Any concerns you have about your health or your baby’s health during pregnancy should be discussed with your caregiver. This will give you access to the medical insight you need to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy.