Pregnancy and yeast infections can go hand in hand due to the hormonal changes in your body that occur when you are pregnant, especially during the second trimester. These physiological changes and conditions make it difficult for the body to maintain the normal flora in the vagina. Elevated levels of blood sugar lead to an overgrowth and proliferation of Candida fungus, most commonly Candida albicans. It is not uncommon to have amounts of yeast in the vagina or intestinal tract but with higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy, the vagina produces more glycogen. Some studies suggest that estrogen may have a direct effect on yeast, causing it to grow faster and stick more easily to the walls of the vagina. Since yeast feeds on sugar, the increased amounts of sugar in the vaginal secretion enable the Candida fungus to overrun the beneficial bacteria resulting in a yeast infection. Yeast infections during pregnancy are more common than at any other time during a women’s life. If you think that you may have a yeast infection, the following information will help you discuss the possibility with your gynecologist.
Causes of Yeast Infections
Candida is commonly found on the body and in the body and is normally suppressed by either the body’s natural ph or immune system. During pregnancy, the changes in hormone levels cause changes in the vaginal flora which leads to an increase in yeast. This growing yeast population produces chemicals that cause the sometimes unbearable symptoms associated with a yeast infection.
Causes of yeast infections could include any of the following:
- Hormonal changes due to pregnancy or menstrual cycle
- Contraceptive pills and hormonal supplements
- Taking antibiotics, or steroids
- Elevated blood sugar, as in diabetes
- Blood or semen
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Consuming large amounts of sugar, starch and yeast
Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
Symptoms of a yeast infection may include one or more of the following:
- Odorless vaginal discharge that is usually white, similar to cottage cheese and may smell like yeast/bread
- Vaginal itching
- Vaginal burning
- Vaginal irritation around the lips of the vagina
- Painful urination ( when urine hits the already irritated vaginal)
- Redness in the vagina and labia ( maybe swelling)
- Painful intercourse
- Lower abdominal pain that comes and goes
- Other discharge may be greenish or yellowish, also similar to cottage cheese and may smell like yeast/bread
Remember, different vaginal infections tend to have similar symptoms but they may have a more serious outcome. If you are experiencing one for the first time, or unsure about the treatment, seek medical advise for the proper diagnosis. Some of these conditions if mistaken for a yeast infection and go undiagnosed during pregnancy, may seriously affect the health of the unborn child.
There are certain symptoms that definitely do not go along with a yeast infection and may indicate a more serious condition. For example, running a fever or experiencing pelvic pain.
If your physician has ruled a yeast infection out but you are experiencing similar symptoms to a yeast infection, you may have one of the following:
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, & Trichomoniasis
- A vaginal infection called Bacterial Vaginosis
Diagnosing a Yeast Infection
In order to diagnose yeast infections during pregnancy, your doctor will normally do a typical vaginal exam and may take a painless swap of the discharge or liquid from the vaginal area. The swap is then placed in a culture medium and incubated. Later, under a microscope, the Candida is identified by its growth pattern and morphology to determine if it is in fact a yeast infection.
Will a yeast infection affect my baby?
No, pregnancy and yeast infections are not a huge concern just a major discomfort. If you do develop a yeast infection while you are pregnant, this will not hurt or affect the development of your baby. Also, there is no evidence that suggests a yeast infection can cause birth defects or any harm to the unborn child.
If a yeast infection is present while giving birth, there is a chance the baby may contract it as he passes through the birth canal. The baby may develop a yeast infection in the mouth known as Thrush. Thrush is characterized by white patches along the sides and roof of the mouth that can not be removed. It is not a serious condition and can effectively be treated with Nystatin.
Treating a Yeast Infection
Vaginal creams and suppositories are usually the only recommendations made by a physician during pregnancy for treating a yeast infection. Diflucan, an oral medication, has not been proven safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
While you are pregnant, treating a yeast infection may take 10-14 days. Finding relief to the symptoms of a yeast infection can take time. When it has cleared up and the sores are healed, using Nystatin powder may be helpful.
Treating a yeast infection in short courses does not seem to be as effective in pregnancy. Therefore your physician will most likely recommend a seven day treatment. This longer treatment is available at lower concentrations which are needed to protect the growing baby. Failure to complete the entire prescription may result in a recurrence.
Every night before bed, the cream will be inserted into the vagina. Treating a yeast infection at bedtime will give you a long time for the cream to remain and make the most out of the medication. It may be helpful to use a pantie liner to help with the leakage of the medication.
Symptoms of a yeast infection may also be treated with ice packs to the perineum or soaking in a cool tub for relief.
Natural remedies for yeast infections
Natural remedies for yeast infections is another option and may including eating yogurt with active cultures that can help your body fight off the yeast infection. Some doctors even encourage yogurt being placed directly into the vagina. It is said to provide relief as well as healing.
Cutting back on sugars is also important because yeast feeds on sugar. Your diet plays an important role in all your health needs.
Of coarse it is best if the mother and child avoid developing yeast infection. Creating a lifestyle that is healthy and coupled with good hygiene may help boost the mother’s immune system which in turn may help protect against infection. Eating a balanced diet and taking prenatal vitamins may also help keep the yeast infection at bay.
Pregnancy in itself can be uncomfortable, so if faced with a yeast infection, it is important to have it treated. There is no need to add any more discomfort due to a yeast infection.
Preventing Yeast Infections
Preventing yeast infections can usually be helped by doing the following:
- Wear breathable loose, cotton clothing, and cotton underwear.
- Avoid pantyhose and tight pants, particularly synthetic ones
- After regular, thorough washing, use your blow dryer on a low, cool setting to help dry your genital area.
- After using the restroom, be sure to wipe front to back..
- Shower immediately after you swim. Remove your swimsuit, workout clothes or other damp clothes as soon as possible.
- Sleep without wearing underwear to allow air to get to your genital area. A night gown allows more air to circulate than pajama bottoms.
- Avoid use feminine hygiene sprays, sanitary pads, and tampons that contain deodorant, and fragrant toilet paper.
- Never douche during pregnancy
- Eat yogurt with “lactobacillus acidophilus” to restore the natural flora of the vagina
- Limit sugar intake, as sugar promotes the growth of yeast
- Get plenty of rest to make it easier for your body to fight infections
Preventing yeast infections can occur if you follow the tips above. In addition, if you regularly take acidophiles while breastfeeding chances are your baby will reap some of the benefits as well and the two of you may avoid thrush or a yeast infection all together.