If you’re an adult woman, chances are you’ve had a yeast infection at some point in your life and know that it’s anything but fun. But did you know yeast infections occur more frequently in women who are pregnant?
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a normal fungus. About one-third of all women normally carry this fungus in their vaginas, and both men and women carry it in their digestive tracts.1
During pregnancy—particularly in the second trimester—women become more susceptible to yeast problems. The increased risk during pregnancy is at least partially due to the increased estrogen circulating in a pregnant woman’s body.
While they’re annoying and uncomfortable, yeast infections are not harmful to your health. Unlike with other types of infections, you generally wouldn’t be prescribed antibiotics for a yeast infection (in fact, the use of antibiotics has been shown to lead to yeast infections in some women).
Symptoms in Moms and Babies
Though caused by the same fungal overgrowth, the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection vary depending on the location of the infection. Vaginal yeast infection symptoms in moms may include:
- Pain during sex2
- Discharge that is white or creamy, including a cottage cheese-like appearance (Not leukorrhea, or normal discharge)
Whereas yeast infection symptoms in babies may appear as:
- White patches in their mouth that do not wipe off (called thrush)3
- Bright red diaper rash that doesn’t go away (sometimes referred to as yeast diaper rash)
If you have never had a yeast infection before, you should have your doctor or midwife look at a sample of your vaginal secretions or discharge under a microscope to ensure you receive a proper diagnosis. You shouldn’t assume it is a yeast infection and attempt to treat it without consulting your provider.
Treatment During Pregnancy
Even if you have had a yeast infection before, you should still contact your doctor as some common medications are not recommended for use during pregnancy.4 Your provider will be able to tell you which medications are safe to use and make a recommendation.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Treatments
Shorter courses of treatment do not appear to be as effective in pregnancy. As a result, your doctor may recommended an over-the-counter or prescription seven-day treatment.
If you’re prescribed a treatment cream, you’ll insert it into the vagina every night before bed, enabling you to lie down as long as possible to get the most out of the medication. If you like, you can use a panty liner to help with any discharge or leakage of medication.
For additional relief, symptoms can also be treated by applying ice packs to the perineum or soaking in a cool tub. There are also topical creams available over-the-counter, but talk to your doctor before using them during pregnancy.5
There are also natural remedies for preventing and dealing with yeast infections.6 Eating yogurt with live active cultures can help your body fight off a yeast infection.7
Some practitioners even encourage you to put plain yogurt (with the cultures) into the vagina, as this has been shown to sometimes provide relief and promote healing. You should also cut back on sugars in your diet, as it can up your chances of developing a yeast infection. Together with a prescribed treatment plan, these measures can help bring you relief.