Pregnancy increases your risk for a vaginal yeast infection, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis or VVC. Reasons for this increased risk include a shift in the balance of vaginal microorganisms, a high estrogen level and reduced immune system activity.
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Because pregnancy alters your body in myriad ways and potential risks to both you and your baby must be considered, use of home remedies is generally not recommended for treatment of vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy.
While a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy usually poses no significant threat to you or your baby if treated successfully, the reasons for not using home remedies and what to expect in terms of treatment are discussed.
VVC or Something Else
A vaginal yeast infection is commonly the first thought many women have when experiencing symptoms of increased white vaginal discharge along with itchiness and burning.
While these symptoms might signal a yeast infection, they very well might not — especially during pregnancy. Other vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, provoke similar symptoms as can irritation due to dampness caused by increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
The best treatment for these conditions depends on an accurate diagnosis. While it might be tempting to presume your symptoms are due to a yeast infection and try a home remedy or an over-the-counter product, this might lead to unnecessary, ineffective or inappropriate treatment. Inconvenient as it almost surely is for a busy mom-to-be, it is best for you and your baby to see your obstetrical care provider before starting any treatment for vaginal symptoms.
Lack of Research
Home remedies for vaginal yeast infections typically focus on use of probiotics or vaginal suppositories containing boric acid. While a November 2017 analysis of research to date published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews reports a higher short-term cure rate of VVC when antifungal treatment is combined with probiotics, this research was conducted in women who were not pregnant. Research involving pregnant women is lacking, particularly evaluating the use of probiotics alone.
Research addressing the safety of boric acid suppositories for VVC during pregnancy is also lacking. The medical text Clinical Maternal-Fetal Medicine advises against its use because of potential exposure to the developing baby with unknown possible side effects.
Risks With Persistent VVC
Though usually terribly uncomfortable, a vaginal yeast infection typically poses no signficant risk to your overall health if you are not pregnant. However, VVC might pose risks during pregnancy. A June 2015 review article published in Current Infectious Disease Reports states that a vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy might increase the risk for:
- Premature labor and delivery
- Low birth weight
- Yeast infection of the mouth of the newborn, or oral thrush
- Infection of the membranes and fluid surrounding the baby
Successful treatment of VVC reduces the risk for these pregnancy-related complications, which underscores the importance of not using unproven home remedies.
Next Steps and Precautions
Contact your obstetrical healthcare provider if you experience symptoms that might signal a vaginal yeast infection. She can perform simple tests to confirm or rule out VVC and other possible causes of your symptoms. Call your obstetrician right away if your vaginal symptoms are accompanied by a fever, chills, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, or abdominal or pelvic pain.
Yeast infections are more difficult to cure during pregnancy compared to when you are not pregnant. Additionally, there is an increased risk of recurrence. Therefore, VVC treatment is longer for pregnant women compared to nonpregnant women.
Typical treatment is 7 days of an intravaginal antifungal medication for an initial yeast infection and 14 days for a recurrent infection. These medications are generally considered safe for use during pregnancy. Oral antifungal medication is typically not recommended during pregnancy to avoid exposing your baby to the medicine.