What Causes a Yeast Infection Before Your Period and What to Do About It

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

The hormonal changes that take place prior to your period can cause you to experience many unpleasant things such as cramps, mood changes, and bloating. One particularly unpleasant side effect that can occur because of hormonal changes is a yeast infection. This typically occurs the week prior to your period and can be common in women of childbearing age.

Although the incidence of yeast infections (also known as candidiasis) prior to a period isn’t known, a small study has shown that three out of 10 women showed an increased growth rate of Candida yeast in the week prior to menstruation.

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman holding an SOS sign in front of her private parts

katleho Seisa / Getty Images

Causes

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. Some women can experience a yeast infection prior to their menstrual cycle, while others get recurring infections at the same time of their cycle each month. This is referred to as cyclic vulvovaginitis.

When the body goes through the menstrual cycle, different hormones are increased and lowered. Estrogen is typically highest during ovulation and then drops slowly before your period begins. Progesterone typically peaks as you come closer to your period. Both progesterone and estrogen are lowest during menstruation.

During this fluctuation, the hormones can become imbalanced, which can lead to the overgrowth of Candida. Estrogen, in particular, has been shown to have an effect on the overgrowth of a particular strain of Candida known as Candida albicans.

There are over 200 different types of Candida, but only five are associated with 90% of yeast infections, including:

  • Candida albicans
  • Candida glabrata
  • Candida tropicalis
  • Candida parapsilosis
  • Candida krusei

Although hormones can play a role in the development of a yeast infection, they are not the only culprit. There are several other potential causes:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes: In those with uncontrolled diabetes, blood sugar levels can spike regularly. Since yeast feeds off sugar, this can lead to an overgrowth of the fungus, leading to a yeast infection.
  • A weakened immune system: Yeast is kept under control by the immune system. If immune function becomes compromised, this can lead to an overgrowth of Candida.
  • Pregnancy and oral contraceptives: Both pregnancy and oral contraceptives can cause changes in the balance of hormones, estrogen especially. When estrogen levels become elevated, it can upset the normal balance of yeast.
  • The use of antibiotics: Antibiotics are designed to kill off bacteria that are making you sick. They often also kill off other beneficial bacteria in the process, which are what help keep yeast levels in check.
  • Psychological issues: Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and prolonged bouts of stress have been shown to contribute to recurrent yeast infections. This is likely because these conditions inhibit the action of the immune system.
  • Poor eating habits: Eating a diet full of processed foods, simple carbohydrates, and sugars can overfeed the yeast that is already in the body. This excessive feeding can cause the yeast to grow out of control.

The Candida Diet

The Candida diet has been shown to be effective for those with candidiasis, but it can be highly restricting. Severe diet restrictions should only be considered following the medical advice from your physician.

Symptoms

The symptoms that occur when a person has a yeast infection may not be present in all people, and they could overlap with other conditions. If you experience any of the symptoms of a yeast infection, visit your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Treating a yeast infection at home is easy, but if your symptoms are caused by another condition, you could do more harm than good by self-treating.

Common symptoms associated with yeast infections include:

  • Itching and irritation in the genital area
  • Burning during sex or while urinating
  • A thick, white discharge that resembles cottage cheese
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • A rash either on or inside of the vagina
  • Pain or swelling of the vagina

In some cases, a yeast infection may cause light bleeding due to the irritation and inflammation of the genital area. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the beginning of your menstrual period and the bleeding caused by a yeast infection. This symptom should be monitored.

Do I Have a Yeast Infection or STD?

A yeast infection and an STD share a lot of the same symptoms, so it’s important to get tested if you are sexually active.

When to See a Doctor

If you’re unsure of the symptoms or have never had a yeast infection before, you should definitely see your doctor. This is because many symptoms of a yeast infection overlap with those of other conditions. You should also go to your doctor if you are pregnant and suspect a yeast infection.

Typically, mild yeast infections will clear up within a few days, but some severe cases may take up to two weeks to resolve. If you have mild symptoms of a yeast infection and it is not clearing up after a few weeks of treatment or your symptoms are getting worse, it’s time to see your doctor.

Diagnosis

Due to how common yeast infection is, it can be easy to diagnose. During your visit to your doctor, they will likely inquire about any medical history regarding yeast infections as well as STDs.

To determine if there are any visible signs of infection, your doctor will likely perform a pelvic exam. This allows them to examine the cervix as well as the vaginal walls. Then, your doctor may collect cell samples of the discharge from your vagina or cervix to be examined under a microscope or to send for further testing.

Treatment

Antifungal medications are used to treat a yeast infection. They may need a prescription or can be purchased over the counter. For mild cases, miconazole, clotrimazole, and terconazole may be used, all of which may be available in a cream, ointment, tablet, or suppositories. They are classified as short-course therapy and are used for one to seven days.

Another option for a mild infection is a single-dose oral medication called fluconazole. Those with moderate infections may be required to take two doses of this medication. This method and medication aren’t recommended for someone who is pregnant, however.

Those with severe or recurrent yeast infections may be required to have longer-term treatment. Long-course vaginal therapy may be required, which is a course of medication that is taken daily for up to two weeks and then once a day for at least six months. Another treatment course is called multidose oral medication. This would require a person to take two or three antifungal doses orally.

Some may experience an infection that is resistant to antifungal medications typically used for this ailment. If that’s the case, they may have to go through azole-resistant therapy. This is when a person is required to take boric acid by way of a vaginal suppository. It is often the last course of treatment and is only used in rare cases.

Antifungal Suppositories and Birth Control

If you use antifungal suppositories to treat your yeast infection, you cannot rely on diaphragms or a condom for birth control since ingredients in the medication can weaken latex.

Prevention

Some things you can do to prevent a yeast infection include:

  • Change your pads and tampons often
  • Always change out of sweaty clothing after a workout
  • Avoid tight clothing and underwear
  • Wear breathable underwear
  • Add a probiotic yogurt to your diet
  • Always wipe from front to back after urinating
  • Avoid douching
  • Avoid scented personal care items

Yeast infections can be uncomfortable, but they are typically easily treated. Remember to call your doctor if you suspect that you have 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. Watson CJ, Grando D, Garland SM, Myers S, Fairley CK, Pirotta M. Premenstrual vaginal colonization of Candida and symptoms of vaginitis. J Med Microbiol. 2012 Nov;61(Pt 11):1580-1583. doi:10.1099/jmm.0.044578-0

  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. Turner SA, Butler G. The Candida pathogenic species complex. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2014 Sep 2;4(9):a019778. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a019778

  4. Gunther LS, Martins HP, Gimenes F, Abreu AL, Consolaro ME, Svidzinski TI. Prevalence of Candida albicans and non-albicans isolates from vaginal secretions: comparative evaluation of colonization, vaginal candidiasis and recurrent vaginal candidiasis in diabetic and non-diabetic women. Sao Paulo Med J. 2014;132(2):116-120. doi:10.1590/1516-3180.2014.1322640

  5. MedlinePlus. Yeast infections. Updated February 22, 2021.

  6. Erb Downward JR, Falkowski NR, Mason KL, Muraglia R, Huffnagle GB. Modulation of post-antibiotic bacterial community reassembly and host response by Candida albicans. Sci Rep. 2013;3:2191. doi:10.1038/srep02191.

  7. Moshfeghy Z, Tahari S, Janghorban R, Najib FS, Mani A, Sayadi M. Association of sexual function and psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety and stress in women with recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2020 Jun 8;21(2):90-96. doi:10.4274/jtgga.galenos.2019.2019.0077

  8. Jeziorek M, Frej-Mądrzak M, Choroszy-Król I. The influence of diet on gastrointestinal Candida spp. colonization and the susceptibility of Candida spp. to antifungal drugs. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2019;70(2):195-200. doi:10.32394/rpzh.2019.0070

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fungal diseases - vaginal candidiasis. Updated November 10, 2020.

  10. MedlinePlus. Yeast infection tests. Updated July 31, 2020.

  11. Mikamo H, Matsumizu M, Nakazuru Y, Okayama A, Nagashima M. Efficacy and safety of a single oral 150 mg dose of fluconazole for the treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis in Japan. J Infect Chemother. 2015 Jul;21(7):520-526. doi:10.1016/j.jiac.2015.03.011

  12. Lírio J, Giraldo PC, Amaral RL, Sarmento ACA, Costa APF, Gonçalves AK. Antifungal (oral and vaginal) therapy for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open. 2019 May 22;9(5):e027489. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027489

  13. Iavazzo C, Gkegkes ID, Zarkada IM, Falagas ME. Boric acid for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: the clinical evidence. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2011 Aug;20(8):1245-1255. doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2708

  14. Cleveland Clinic. Yeast infections. Updated October 26, 2019.

  15. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Women's Health. Douching. Updated April 1, 2019.