What to Know About Yeast Infection and Pregnancy

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Vulvovaginal candidiasis—better known as a yeast infection—is common during pregnancy. The infections can be symptomatic or asymptomatic, with most symptomatic cases occurring during the second and third trimesters.

There are a number of factors that may increase a person's chances of getting a yeast infection during pregnancy.

This article discusses how yeast infections can affect your fertility and the impact on you during pregnancy and postpartum.

pregnant woman holding belly

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Yeast Infections and Fertility

Though yeast infections don't cause infertility directly, if left untreated, they could cause pelvic inflammatory disease, leading to infertility.

Yeast Infections and Gestation

Yeast infections are always irritating, but for pregnant people, they make life even more uncomfortable.

Here's what to know about yeast infections during pregnancy, including the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Causes

Most people with a vagina have at least one yeast infection at some point in their lives. Yeast infections are caused by a common type of fungus called Candida albicans. It's completely normal for this fungus to be found in small amounts in the vagina, mouth, digestive tract, and on the skin, and it typically doesn't cause any harm (or is even noticeable).

Sometimes the bacteria and other germs in the vagina that usually keep the fungus in check fall out of balance, allowing the number of Candida to increase, ultimately leading to a yeast infection.

Because of increased estrogen levels and vaginal glycogen production—as well as certain immunologic alterations—pregnant people are more prone to yeast infections than those with a vagina who aren't pregnant.

Along with pregnancy, other risk factors that increase a person's chance of getting a yeast infection include:

  • Recent antibiotic use (including amoxicillin and steroids)
  • Diabetes (and not having your blood sugar under control)
  • Obesity
  • A weakened immune system (including from HIV)
  • Using a type of hormonal birth control that has higher doses of estrogen
  • Douching or use vaginal sprays

Symptoms

Though yeast infections are more common in pregnant individuals, there is no evidence to suggest that pregnant people's symptoms are worse than those that non-pregnant people experience. The symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • Itching and burning of the vagina and labia
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, ranging from slightly watery, white discharge, to thick, white, and chunky (like cottage cheese)
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva
  • Small cuts or tiny cracks in the skin of the vulva

Sometimes other types of vaginal discharge can make it look like a person has a yeast infection when that's not actually the case. However, it's important for pregnant people to see their doctor as soon as they experience any signs of a yeast infection, as it may be something more serious, like bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection (such as gonorrhea or chlamydia), and may require a different type of treatment.

Diagnosis

Yeast infections are diagnosed the same way, regardless of whether someone is pregnant. It requires a trip to your healthcare provider and typically begins with a pelvic exam. Additionally, a small amount of the vaginal discharge is examined under a microscope, in a test known as a wet mount.

Treatment

When people who aren't pregnant get a yeast infection, in many cases it's something that can be dealt with using over-the-counter medications. And while the same treatments are used for pregnant people, it's best that they see their doctor about their potential yeast infection. That way, they can make sure they use the medication that's most effective on their set of symptoms.

Typically, healthcare providers recommend that pregnant people use vaginal medicines—like creams, ointments, or suppositories—to treat yeast infections (as opposed to oral tablets). The most common nonprescription medicines used to treat yeast infections in pregnant people include:

  • Butoconazole (such as Femstat)
  • Clotrimazole (such as Gyne-Lotrimin)
  • Miconazole (such as Monistat)
  • Terconazole (such as Terazol)

It is important that a pregnant person finishes the entire course of treatment, which is usually seven days, even if they start to feel better.

In fact, in some cases it can take even longer to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy, so if the symptoms don't go away after the full length of the treatment, it's important for pregnant people to contact their healthcare provider for further instructions.

Prevalence of Yeast Infection Diagnosis During Pregnancy

More than 20% of people with a vulva have Candida yeast in their vagina at any given time. During pregnancy, the prevalence increases to 30%. That includes both symptomatic and asymptomatic yeast infections.

Yeast Infections and Postpartum

Ideally, a yeast infection that occurs during pregnancy would be treated prior to childbirth. However, that doesn't always happen. In addition, the Candida fungus can spread between the baby and the person who gave birth.

Complications for the Baby

When someone with a yeast infection gives birth, it is possible for them to pass the Candida fungus along to their baby during delivery. This typically happens in the form of oral thrush, consisting of thick, white patches in their mouth. Fortunately, oral thrush can be easily treated with antifungal medication and doesn't cause any permanent harm to the baby.

At this point, there is preliminary data that suggests a yeast infection during pregnancy may be associated with an increased risk of complications, like:

  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Preterm labor
  • Chorioamnionitis
  • Congenital cutaneous candidiasis (an extremely rare disorder that presents within the first six days of life)

Breastfeeding

Because the Candida fungus grows in dark, moist environments, after a baby is born and begins breastfeeding, a person can get a yeast infection on their nipples too.

They are more likely to get a nipple yeast infection if they already have a vaginal yeast infection, and/or if their baby has oral thrush or a yeasty diaper rash.

Regardless of the location of the infection, the fungus spreads easily, so it's important for someone experiencing a postpartum yeast infection to let their healthcare provider know as soon as possible.

If the infection is superficial, it can typically be treated with over-the-counter medications. However, if the infection has gotten deep into the milk ducts, the best treatment is an oral medication prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat a yeast infection during pregnancy?

Always talk to your healthcare provider if you're pregnant and suspect you might have a yeast infection. While there's a good chance they'll recommend an over-the-counter vaginal cream, ointment, or suppository, it's best to get their input on exactly what type you should use.

What causes yeast infections during pregnancy?

Like yeast infections outside of pregnancy, yeast infections during pregnancy occur when the different types of bacteria in the vagina become unbalanced, resulting in an overgrowth of Candida fungus.

Pregnant people are more susceptible to yeast infections because of increased estrogen levels and vaginal glycogen production—as well as certain immunologic alterations.

How do you prevent yeast infections while pregnant?

Whether or not you're pregnant, the ways to prevent yeast infections include:

  • Keeping your genital area clean and dry
  • Avoiding douching, as well as hygiene sprays, fragrances, or powders in the genital area
  • Wearing cotton underwear, and avoiding underwear made of silk or nylon
  • Avoiding wearing tight-fitting pants or shorts

What yeast infection cream is safe during pregnancy?

The following yeast infection creams are safe to use during pregnancy:

  • Butoconazole (such as Femstat)
  • Clotrimazole (such as Gyne-Lotrimin)
  • Miconazole (such as Monistat)
  • Terconazole (such as Terazol)

A Word From Verywell

Between the swollen ankles, constant trips to the bathroom, and having to carry around another human at all times, pregnancy can be rough. Throw in a yeast infection and it can be downright miserable.

But while it's annoying, having a yeast infection during pregnancy is common and won't cause serious harm to the baby. It's also helpful to know that there are effective treatment options that are safe for pregnant people, but it's important to keep in mind that a healthcare provider should be consulted before starting any medication.

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6 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.
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