What Causes a Yeast Infection After Your Period and How to Treat It

A yeast infection after your period can be caused by changes in hormones that take place throughout the menstrual cycle. Not everyone will get a yeast infection after their period; certain factors can make some more susceptible than others.

Yeast infection is a common condition caused by the overgrowth of Candida, a yeast found in the vagina. Roughly 75% of women will experience at least one yeast infection at some point in their lives, while 50% of all women will experience more than one.

a woman lying on a sofa

Alla Bielikova / Getty Images

Causes of Yeast Infections After Your Period

Yeast infections after a period can occur because hormone fluctuations can upset the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. When hormones begin to rise and fall, particularly estrogen, it could kill the bacteria that live in the vagina, which keep yeast in the vagina in check.

Without bacteria counteracting the growth of yeast, the yeast responsible for most cases of yeast infection—Candida—can overgrow. This leads to a vaginal yeast infection, also known as vaginal candidiasis.

Progesterone, another hormone that is released during the menstrual cycle, helps increase the effectiveness of cells that destroy Candida. This constant cycling of hormones is what leads to the changes in the levels of good and bad bacteria and yeast within the vagina.

Risk Factors

Some people are more likely to develop yeast infections after their period, such as those with:

  • Antibiotics use: Antibiotics are designed to destroy bacteria that are causing an illness. However, they can often kill off good bacteria in the process as well. This can lead to an overgrowth of Candida and a yeast infection.
  • A weak immune system: A weakened immune system makes it harder to fight off any infection. People with a weak immune system often have to take medications that can lead to an imbalance in bacteria and increase the risk of a yeast infection.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes: If people with diabetes don’t control their condition, they can experience spikes in blood sugar levels. When the blood glucose is high, yeast can thrive because it feeds off of sugar. This can increase the chances of yeast multiplying out of control.
  • High levels of stress: High levels of stress can have negative effects on overall health, especially immune function. When the immune system becomes weakened by stress, the risk of Candida overgrowth increases.
  • Recurrent yeast infections: People who have recurrent yeast infections are more likely to experience one following a period. This could be due to poor hygiene practices or a weakened immune system.

Symptoms

Not everyone who has a yeast infection will experience symptoms. The most common symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Itching in the vagina and vulva
  • A thick, white discharge that has the same appearance as cottage cheese
  • Swelling and redness of both the vagina and the vulva
  • Burning during urination
  • Small cuts or cracks in the sensitive skin of the vulva

Another symptom of a yeast infection is light bleeding. It can be difficult to determine if the bleeding is the end of your period or caused by a yeast infection.

If you have light bleeding and other symptoms of a yeast infection, see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Yeast Infection or Something Else?

A foul vaginal odor and gray discharge likely indicate that a condition other than a yeast infection is behind your symptoms.

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will ask you about the symptoms you are experiencing. If they suspect that your symptoms are related to a yeast infection, they will then perform a pelvic exam.

This gives them an opportunity to look inside the vagina and cervix to check for symptoms like swelling or redness. They may also take a sample of cells or discharge and send it to a lab to have it tested to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatments

Treatment varies depending on which type of yeast is causing your infection. The most common type of yeast, Candida albicans, is the culprit behind 85% to 90% of all yeast infections. The first-line treatment for people who have a first-time or non-recurrent infection is antifungal medications.

They can be administered in different ways:  

  • Intravaginal imidazoles: This type of antifungal medication is given in the form of a vaginal suppository so the medication is introduced directly into the vagina.
  • Oral fluconazole: This antifungal medication is given orally.

There are also a few over-the-counter medications that can be used to treat a yeast infection, including Monistat (miconazole), Vagistat (tioconazole), and Canesten (clotrimazole).

For those with recurrent yeast infections—having four or more in one year—treatment options may be different and may include:

  • Fluconazole: This oral medication is taken by mouth once every three days over the course of 10 to 14 days.
  • Vaginal medications: These intravaginal medications are used over the course of 10 to 14 days.

After this initial treatment, a maintenance treatment plan will be in place for at least six months. It may include oral or vaginal medications.  

If you’re using antifungal suppositories, you should not use diaphragms and condoms for birth control. The chemicals in the treatments can weaken the latex of condoms and lower the efficacy of these birth control methods. You should use alternative birth control during this time if needed.

Prevention

Although yeast infections are easily treated, they can still be a hassle to deal with and an unbearable experience.

The good news is that there are some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your chances of getting a yeast infection after your period:

  • Change pads and tampons often: Excessive moisture can increase the risk of developing a yeast infection, so changing your pads and tampons frequently can help keep your vagina as dry as possible.
  • Avoid scented products: Many feminine products on the market come with light scents. They can potentially aggravate the vaginal area and increase the risk of developing a yeast infection.
  • Avoid douching: Douching used to be thought of as a good way to clean the vagina, but it can actually upset the balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina and lead to a yeast infection or other vaginal infections.
  • Wear breathable underwear and change out of sweaty clothes or bathing suits immediately: Since yeast thrives in moist areas, wearing breathable underwear such as those made of cotton to keep the vaginal area dry and changing out of wet clothes as soon as possible can help lower the risk of developing a yeast infection.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Social Services: Office on Women’s Health. Vaginal Yeast Infections. Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. Salinas-Muñoz L, Campos-Fernández R, Mercader E, Olivera-Valle I, Fernández-Pacheco C, Matilla L, García-Bordas J, Brazil JC, Parkos CA, Asensio F, Muñoz-Fernández MA, Hidalgo A, Sánchez-Mateos P, Samaniego R, Relloso M. Estrogen receptor-alpha (ESR1) governs the lower female reproductive tract vulnerability to Candida albicans. Front Immunol. 2018 May 24;9:1033. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01033

  3. Jensen JU, Hein L, Lundgren B, Bestle MH, Mohr T, Andersen MH, Løken J, Tousi H, Søe-Jensen P, Lauritsen AØ, Strange D, Petersen JA, Thormar K, Larsen KM, Drenck NE, Helweg-Larsen J, Johansen ME, Reinholdt K, Møller JK, Olesen B, Arendrup MC, Østergaard C, Cozzi-Lepri A, Grarup J, Lundgren JD; Procalcitonin and Survival Study Group. Invasive Candida infections and the harm from antibacterial drugs in critically ill patients: data from a randomized, controlled trial to determine the role of ciprofloxacin, piperacillin-tazobactam, meropenem, and cefuroxime. Crit Care Med. 2015;43(3):594-602. doi:10.1097/CCM.0000000000000746

  4. Lanternier F, Cypowyj S, Picard C, Bustamante J, Lortholary O, Casanova JL, Puel A. Primary immunodeficiencies underlying fungal infections. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2013;25(6):736-747. doi:10.1097/MOP.0000000000000031

  5. Atabek ME, Akyürek N, Eklioglu BS. Frequency of vagınal candida colonization and relationship between metabolic parameters in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2013;26(5):257-260. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2013.03.016

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Vaginal yeast infections. Updated October 26, 2019.

  7. Martin Lopez JE. Candidiasis (vulvovaginal). BMJ Clin Evid. 2015 Mar 16;2015:0815.

  8. Health Link British Columbia. Recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Updated November 8, 2019.

  9. Noyes N, Cho KC, Ravel J, Forney LJ, Abdo Z. Associations between sexual habits, menstrual hygiene practices, demographics and the vaginal microbiome as revealed by Bayesian network analysis. PLOS ONE. 2018;13(1):e0191625. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191625

  10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office on Women’s Health. Douching. Updated April 1, 2019.