Most women experience a common yeast infection known as vaginal thrush with occasional bouts. It causes the vagina and surrounding area to itch, irritate, and swell, sometimes with a creamy white cheese like discharge from the vagina.
Pregnant women are especially susceptible to yeast infections. With so much heading on when you’re expecting, the last thing you need is a relief from an itchy yeast infection. Unfortunately, rising levels of estrogen that come with a bun in the oven increase your risk of one, making yeast infections the most common vaginal infection during pregnancy. Indeed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 75 percent of all adult women have had at least one yeast infection in their lifetime. The best thing is yeast infections do not affect your pregnancy or your baby-to-be while uncomfortable for the mother-to-be.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a vaginal fungus called Candida albicans, which is otherwise normal. When bacteria and yeast balance in the vagina are changed, this yeast can overgrow and cause symptoms when estrogen levels rise due to pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, or estrogen therapy. Excess moisture can also exasperate an imbalance, creating a more welcoming environment for fungal growth for your nether regions.
A significant increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal: thin, milky, mild-smelling, voluminous matter is so common that it has a name: leukorrhea. However, a yeast infection makes your discharge white, lumpy and odorless. You will also probably experience itching and burning out of the area called the vulva outside the vagina, which may look red and swollen. Other symptoms of yeast infection during intercourse may include painful urination and discomfort.
Luckily, infections with yeast are not dangerous and rarely are more than an irritating inconvenience. But when you get into work, if you have a yeast infection, it can be passed on to your baby during delivery, like the fungus that causes vaginal yeast infections can also cause a yeast imbalance in the mouth. In this case, when you breastfeed, your newborn may develop white patches in the mouth that can be passed back to you. Fortunately, you can easily treat thrush with a mild baby antifungal medication and an antifungal cream.
Even if you have previously had yeast infections and are a self-diagnosing professional, it is best to call your healthcare provider before using over-the-counter medication. You may be able to take an antifungal cream or vaginal suppository over-the-counter or prescribed. Keep in mind that these treatments may take several days before they bring relief and that even if you start feeling better, you should continue to use the medication as long as your practitioner has suggested — which may be one week or more. Unfortunately, medication can only temporarily ban a yeast infection; the infection often returns during the time of pregnancy and might require frequent treatment.