Yeast infections typically occur in the genital area and develop when external factors trigger an overgrowth of Candida fungus.
It’s a common condition among pregnant people, especially those in their second or third trimester, when the body undergoes significant changes.
Typical treatment options for pregnant individuals with yeast infections are topical antifungal creams and vaginal suppositories. In severe cases, your doctor may also recommend a low-risk oral medication.
You can avoid yeast infections while pregnant by making healthy lifestyle changes, which may include following a balanced diet and practicing good personal hygiene.
Pregnancy is a transformative journey involving a number of notable physical and emotional changes in the body.
Certain health concerns may become more prevalent during this time — this includes the risk of developing yeast infections.
Although a yeast infection isn’t always a cause for concern, it’s important to know what to do if you develop one while pregnant.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about yeast infections and pregnancy, including treatment options and best practices to avoid recurring issues.
What is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast infections (candidiasis) usually develop around the genitals when an overgrowth of candida (yeast) fungus occurs.
During pregnancy, this infection is most likely to occur in the vagina, causing vaginal candidiasis.
Although this fungus is naturally found on the body in small amounts — typically in moist and warm areas — an overgrowth of it can be caused by a number of environmental, health, and lifestyle factors. These include:
- Poor personal hygiene
- Underlying medical conditions, like diabetes
- A weakened immune system
- Hormone imbalances
- Using certain medications, like oral contraceptives or antibiotics
Common symptoms to look out for
In most cases, vaginal yeast infections cause discomfort around the infected area. You may also experience:
- Unusual cottage cheese-like discharge
If the infection spreads to other parts of the body, you may develop symptoms like white patches in your mouth, a sore throat, and difficulty swallowing.
It’s important to note that other conditions — like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — can cause similar symptoms, so consulting a doctor for an accurate diagnosis is essential.
What Causes a Vaginal Yeast Infection during Pregnancy?
Yeast infections can occur during pregnancy and may be caused by factors relating to the physiological changes that happen in your body during this time.
Things like hormonal fluctuations — increased estrogen levels in particular — can alter the pH balance in the vagina, making it more susceptible to a fungal infection.
Additionally, an increase in the production of glycogen — a key nutrient source for yeast — in the vaginal lining can make you more likely to develop an infection.
Other factors, like having diabetes or HIV/AIDS and taking antibiotics, might contribute to yeast infections too. Some pregnant women may develop prenatal diabetes, which could also put them at a higher risk of infection.
Key Point: Are Yeast Infections Common during Pregnancy?
Yeast infections are common in pregnant women — in fact, research suggests that around 20 to 30% of pregnant women will develop this condition.
This is largely due to the significant hormonal changes that occur in the body during this time.
These changes can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in the vagina and create an environment where infection-causing fungi can grow.
How are Yeast Infections Treated if You are Pregnant?
While yeast infections are highly treatable — even during pregnancy — it’s important to contact your doctor before you use any medications or remedies.
Not all traditional yeast infection treatments are always safe to use while pregnant, so it’s essential to check with your doctor first.
If you develop a yeast infection while pregnant, there are a number of low-risk treatment options available. These may include:
- Topical antifungal creams like miconazole and clotrimazole
- Vaginal suppositories
- Oral medications for severe cases of infection
In addition to over-the-counter (OTC) treatment options, you can also implement various self-care measures to alleviate any discomfort.
This can include wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear, avoiding scented soaps, maintaining proper hygiene, and following a healthy diet that is low in refined sugar.
Certain home remedies may also be effective for treating yeast infections. However, it’s recommended to check with your doctor before using them to make sure that they are safe.
Key Point: How Long Do Yeast Infections Last?
With proper treatment, yeast infections in pregnant women will start to resolve within 10 to 14 days.
After the infection has cleared, it may also take a few days for sores or rashes to clear up completely.
If your symptoms don’t improve within this time, it may indicate a more severe infection, and it’s important to contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Can Yeast Infections Have a Negative Impact on Your Pregnancy?
A yeast infection usually won’t affect your developing baby. However, it’s still important to treat the infection to prevent it from getting worse and causing other health complications.
Although these complications are extremely rare, they could have an indirect impact on the well-being of you and your baby, including:
- The risk of preterm labor
- Transmitting the infection to your baby during birth or breastfeeding
If you suspect that you have developed a yeast infection while pregnant, it’s important to seek proper medical attention right away.
This will help you receive the appropriate treatment to avoid recurrent issues and potentially harmful complications that can develop because of an untreated yeast infection.
When are you most susceptible to developing a yeast infection while pregnant?
Yeast infections can develop at any point during pregnancy, but they tend to be most common during your second and third trimesters.
Although there is no research to suggest exactly why this is the case, medical professionals agree that it’s most likely because of the significant changes that are continuously happening in the body during pregnancy.
You might also be more at risk during these trimesters because of a suppressed immune response and increased pressure on the pelvic area, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Key Point: What Should You Avoid if You Have a Yeast Infection While Pregnant?
If you have a yeast infection while pregnant, there are a few things you should avoid to prevent symptoms from worsening. These include:
Douching — a practice that can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in the vagina and potentially induce labor in later stages of pregnancy
Using perfumed soaps, bubble baths, or feminine hygiene sprays that can irritate the vaginal area
Consuming a lot of sugar — a nutrient yeast is known to thrive on — as this can prolong the infection
Wearing tight-fitting clothing, especially those made from synthetic material
You should also consult your doctor before taking any medications to treat a yeast infection, because not all methods are safe to use during pregnancy.
When Should You See a Doctor?
It’s recommended that you see your doctor as soon as you start experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection.
This helps them make an accurate diagnosis and recommend an appropriate treatment method before the infection can cause further complications.
You should also make an appointment with your doctor if:
- You’ve never had a yeast infection before
- You’re experiencing recurrent or persistent symptomatic yeast infections that don’t improve with treatment
- You have severe symptoms, such as intense itching, swelling, or pain
- You have other underlying medical conditions that may affect your treatment options
Seeing a doctor about a potential yeast infection — especially while pregnant — is the best way to get professional and effective care.
Not only is this crucial for preventing issues like recurrent infections, but it also ensures that you and your baby remain safe.
Where Can You Learn More About Yeast Infections and Pregnancy?
If you’re concerned about your symptoms or want to know more about yeast infections during pregnancy, LifeMD is here to help.
A team of medical professionals can assist you with information and provide guidance on overcoming a yeast infection — all from the comfort of your home.
Make an appointment with LifeMD today to learn more about treating yeast infections during pregnancy to ensure a safe and healthy journey for you and your baby.