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- What Is a Yeast Infection In Pregnancy, and Is It Common?
- Causes Of Yeast Infection In Pregnancy
- Symptoms Of a Yeast Infection During Pregnancy
- How to Diagnose a Yeast Infection
- How to Treat a Yeast Infection While Pregnant
- Preventive Measures to Avoid a Yeast Infection While Pregnant
- Complications Of Yeast Infection
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There are many types of fungi that live in our bodies, most of which are useful, and thrive without causing any symptoms. However, sometimes, these fungi can cause infections that can be hard to control. One such infection is a yeast infection, which affects sensitive areas of the body, even during a delicate phase like pregnancy.
Vulvo-vaginal 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.
Some common factors that put women at risk of this infection are pregnancy, diabetes, broad spectrum antibiotics, birth control pills, corticosteroids, and immunodeficiency disorders.
Let’s take an in-depth look at yeast infections that occur during pregnancy.
What Is a Yeast Infection In Pregnancy, and Is It Common?
A yeast infection during pregnancy is a common condition that is also called candidiasis. It is characterised by itchiness, soreness, and irritation in the vagina and labia. It 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 in the body during pregnancy make women more susceptible to pregnancy-related yeast infections, 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 the woman. Therefore, if you are experiencing such symptoms during pregnancy, try to learn about it, and then consult your doctor as soon as possible.
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 is 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 a few months or years. The prescriptive medication taken to kill the targeted bacteria also affects the balance of the protective organisms 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 infections.
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 hormone 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 them. Doctors highly recommend against douching during pregnancy (or even otherwise), as it removes the healthy and normal vaginal flora, which can facilitate the overgrowth of pathogens.
Symptoms Of a Yeast Infection 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; can also be accompanied by swelling, depending on the severity
- Leukorrhea, 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 similar to the smell of yeast from beer or bread
How to Diagnose a Yeast Infection
Since many of the physical symptoms of a 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 then 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 a 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 detected early. It is not advisable to use over-the-counter and antifungal creams without the prescription of a doctor. Oral medication is also not recommended.
Treatments for a 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 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 that the infection does not come back.
Home and Natural Remedies for a Yeast Infection
When you begin to notice signs of a yeast infection, you can use some of these effective home remedies to treat the infection 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 strain of bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus, unflavoured yoghurt can be applied vaginally once or twice a day until the symptoms disappear.
- 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 then 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 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 this 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 a 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 that 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 exercise. Do not sit in damp or wet bathing garments, or sweaty workout clothes, 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, 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, serious complications from other infections or STDs can be misread as yeast infections 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 infections do not affect the growing baby. However, if you have a 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, sides, 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 sexual partners. If the male partner develops symptoms such as redness, itching, rashes, or burning, it is a good idea to abstain from sex, and seek treatment immediately.
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 infection, and do make sure to consult a doctor if you do.