There is a natural acidity in the vagina that keeps yeast infections at bay; however, during pregnancy, bouts of intense stress and after taking antibiotics, acid levels can drop leaving the vagina unprotected. When yeast is allowed to grow in a less acidic environment, a yeast infection can develop. Yeast infections are more common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, specifically increased estrogen. Rising estrogen levels spark glycogen production and with more food yeast grows out of control and takes over healthy microorganisms.

Causes And Symptoms

Yeast infections are a result of an imbalance between acid and yeast in the vagina. Glycogen facilitates yeast growth, but doctors also believe there is a direct connection between estrogen and speed of growth, which could be one reason yeast infections are common in pregnancy.

Antibiotics are also associated with yeast infections. Antibiotics cannot discern between good and bad bacteria, so all bacteria are killed. Bad bacteria growth takes over before good bacteria can catch up leading to a yeast infection.

Symptoms of a yeast infection primarily affect the vagina and vaginal opening. Common symptoms may include irritation, redness, itchiness and foul-smelling discharge. Painful sex and burning while urinating may also develop.

Treatment

Antifungal medications are required to treat a yeast infection, but despite these medications being available over the counter, doctors suggest patients seek proper medical diagnosis before attempting to self-treat a yeast infection. This is especially important during pregnancy as not all medications may be safe for pregnant women. Some yeast infections are advanced enough to require prescription medication as over the counter varieties are not strong enough to fight the infection quickly.

Pregnancy

Yeast infections during pregnancy are common and do not pose any medical risk to the unborn baby, and safe medications are available for use during pregnancy. However, pregnant women with an active yeast infection during labor may pass the infection on to the baby. Typically, the yeast infection will affect your infant’s mouth in the form of an oral yeast infection is called thrush. Thrush is easily treatable in infants.

Postpartum

Many women report yeast infections within a few weeks after giving birth. Postpartum yeast infections are common and may be associated with antibiotics, vaginal birth or hormonal changes. It is important to tell your doctor about your symptoms before attempting to use over the counter antifungal medications. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal to speed up the healing process. 

Breastfeeding

Yeast infections are common during breastfeeding, especially with the use of breast pads. Antibiotics can also affect yeast growth, increasing the likelihood of a yeast infection. Alternatively, women with vaginal yeast infections during labor can pass the infection on to the baby, which takes up to two weeks to develop into thrush (an oral yeast infection). Thrush can then be passed on to mom during breastfeeding. Common symptoms of a yeast infection of the breast include painful nipples, peeling skin and shooting pains while feeding. Your doctor will work with you to maintain good personal and breastfeeding hygiene, including sterilizing breast pumps and washing/drying nipples between feedings. An antifungal cream may be prescribed along with an oral antifungal medication to prevent or treat thrush in your baby.

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What You Need To Know About Yeast Infections